Forest Sinks Reap Benefits

15 May 2012

With the support of volunteers, Council land is regenerating from scrubby farmland to native forest, which allows us to claim carbon credits.

Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park

Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park

Wellington City has long recognised the benefits of preserving parts of our city for recreation and, more recently, of restoring the city's biodiversity. As a Council, we also have a responsibility to show leadership in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

To demonstrate our commitment to this goal, we have registered more than 1,270ha of Council-owned reserve land in the Government's Permanent Forest Sink Initiative. Councillors recently agreed that a further 111ha be added to the scheme.

We've also completed our first trade of carbon credits from Council-owned forests registered through the scheme. Carbon credits are issued to forest owners in recognition of the importance of forests in removing carbon dioxide - a greenhouse gas - from the earth's atmosphere. Trees absorb and store carbon as they grow.

Reserve land in the scheme is spread around Wellington and includes Makara Peak and Te Kopahou on the south coast. The latest addition includes land in Awarua Street and Kilmister Tops reserves near Khandallah, and Town Belt land in Newtown.

Under the scheme, a 'forest sink' covenant is placed on the land. This is a 50-year agreement between the Crown and the landowner to protect and enhance the forest. We then receive carbon credits each year which can then be sold.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says that revenue from trading carbon credits goes towards reducing the amount of rates required to fund Council activities, including reserves management and pest control.

It may also be used for new initiatives which support revegetation, such as the control of pests like possums and goats or increased tree planting. These would be considered as part of the annual planning process.

Around 250ha of the land in the Permanent Forest Sink Initiative is in the Makara Peak area. Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park, created in 1998, was the first Council reserve to have a forest sink covenant placed on it and to become eligible to accumulate carbon credits.

The Makara Peak supporters and other local volunteers have planted over 30,000 native seedlings, carried out pest control to encourage revegetation and improve bird habitat, and created 40km of mountain bike tracks. The supporters and the Council jointly received national recognition for this partnership when Makara Peak was named the New Zealand Recreation Association's Outstanding Park in 2010.

Mayor Wade-Brown says areas like these are wonderful for the people of Wellington in more ways than one.  "Makara Peak is used by thousands of cyclists and walkers each year. Now, as well as the recreation opportunities on offer, it generates income which we will use to further develop the forest.

"Forests are a natural asset to help reduce our carbon footprint, which is an essential goal for Wellington to be a responsive and responsible eco-city."