Carbon Farming in NZ and Australia – Indigenous Aspects

This research has explored the preferability of land use options suitable for Maori land on the East Coast of New Zealand’s North Island, with a particular emphasis on the applicability and feasibility of native forest carbon farming within the Emissions Trading Scheme (NZ ETS). The steep topographical nature of Maori land on the East Coast limits many land use options. Creating permanent native forest carbon sinks on this land is frequently proffered as a positive solution addressing national climate change commitments and local environmental and socioeconomic issues. Multi-criteria analysis has highlighted an economic case for carbon farming on the East Coast; however, institutional and socio-cultural barriers hinder the participation of Maori landowners in the NZ ETS.

Issues of fairness and equity need to be considered when advocating for Maori landowners to participate in carbon farming: including the poor quality of land remaining in Maori ownership (which could lead to Maori undertaking a disproportionate share of carbon sequestration), the restrictions placed upon future generations of landowners should land use change be desired in the future and the health and vibrancy of rural communities as increasing amounts of farmland is converted into carbon forestry. If Maori landowners wish to establish native forest carbon sinks on their land, recognition through carbon markets could serve to recompense Maori for the limited land use options which have arisen as a result of colonisation processes.

This talk will explore how carbon credits produced on Maori land using native forests can achieve greater market differentiation from those produced through exotic plantation forestry due to the superior environmental and socio-cultural co-benefits associated with native forests. A comparison will also be drawn with Australia’s Aboriginal Carbon Fund which verifies and markets the ‘greater good’ associated with co-benefits arising alongside carbon abatement projects on First Nation land. Greater awareness of an ‘indigenous carbon credit premium’ within a New Zealand context can better inform those with liabilities under the NZ ETS of the diverse NZUs on offer, and seeks to support climate change action that has meaningful benefits for the communities where these forests exist.