Beyond the dollar: carbon farming and its alternatives for Tairāwhiti Māori landowners

Authors: Leo Mercer*,
Topics: Environment, Indigenous Peoples, Australia and New Zealand
Keywords: carbon farming, land use, Maori land, MCA, New Zealand, environmental geography
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Jackson, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This research has explored land use options and the values Māori landowners ascribe to different land uses on the East Coast of New Zealand’s North Island. Some 90% of Māori land has moderate to severe land use limitations and is habitually described as unproductive and marginal. The steep topographical nature of Māori 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. However, there has been limited exploration as to the merits of carbon farming permanent forests when compared to conventional land uses. Low-lying fertile land was, and continues to be, alienated in New Zealand and issues of equity need to be considered as Māori landowners may feel pressured to create permanent carbon sinks which curtail future land use options. Research has highlighted an economic case for carbon farming on the East Coast; however, institutional and socio-cultural barriers hinder the participation of Māori landowners in the Emissions Trading Scheme. Multi-criteria analysis was employed to curate a set of land use options and associated cobenefits for Māori landowners to appraise at a series of workshops. The ratings assigned to land use cobenefits have aided in assessing the wider value of land uses for Māori on the East Coast. This research will introduce and utilise a process that increases understanding of the aspirations of Māori landowners, and assists Māori in determining their land use futures.

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