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Published: 2009-04-03 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is helping a Waitomo farmer to become the first Waikato applicant to successfully gain a Government grant for planting trees under a regional share of the Afforestation Grant Scheme.

Willie Berkers, a sheep and beef farmer, is to receive up to $12,000 for the carbon sequestered by a new planting of redwoods and other exotic trees on a seven hectare section of steep land above tomos that lead to the extensive cave network running under his property. The caves are part of the wider system which incorporates the iconic Waitomo "glow worm" Caves.

"It’s great news that we’ve been able to help this farmer secure funding under AGS," said Andra Neeley, an EW councillor for the King Country area.

"The planting will help prevent erosion on some steep hills while also protecting the underground caves by stopping them silting up, as has happened in the past in other parts of the cave system. And at the same time it’s helping New Zealand meet our Kyoto climate treaty obligations."

The funding for planting is to be made available under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s Afforestation Grant Scheme (AGS), which was launched this financial year to help protect land and boost the use of trees to soak up carbon from the atmosphere.

The estimated $12,000 that will go to the Waitomo property will come out of the AGS’ regional contestable pool. Some $1.2 million remains in the pool and the deadline for applications is 20 April. To have a chance of getting funds, applicants will need to have their proposal evaluated by EW.

"This pool of afforestation funds provides a great opportunity for others in the region to seek funds for plantings that can prevent erosion and soak up carbon. EW is happy to help landowners through the applications process," said Cr Neeley.

Funding is available for both native and exotic tree plantings on land that meets the eligibility requirements. EW staff must do a site visit to assess eligibility. Under the scheme, a landowner must plant at least five hectares in native or non-native trees and meet a minimum stocking rate of trees per hectare. The planting area must be fenced and the Government retains legal ownership of the carbon credits produced by the trees for 10 years. After that the landowner regains the ownership of the carbon and can choose to harvest the trees or trade the carbon in an emissions trading scheme.

For further information on the AGS and how EW can help with applications, see the "For Farmers" section at EW’s website ( or call Steve Bosak on 0800 800 401.