New South Wales became the first state to take part in the Australian Government's carbon credit scheme in 2016, kick-starting a major land rehabilitation program involving tree planting projects across the national parks estate.
Over 1.5 million trees will be planted at various locations over 5 years, covering a total area of about 1300 hectares. Land that had been previously used for forestry, mining or agricultural purposes has been targeted for planting. Many of these cleared or modified sites now contain compromised habitat for native wildlife. The program is an excellent opportunity to address these issues by providing the foundation for natural ecological processes to re-commence.
The ability of maturing trees to trap and absorb greenhouse gases highlights the broader application of the program, with a projected 100,000 tonnes of damaging CO2 to be removed from the atmosphere. With the trees protected by our network of national parks and reserves, these results are expected to be permanent.
This innovative tree planting trial is being led by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and has been brought to life through collaborative partnerships across the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment and with the valuable support of local Aboriginal communities. Partnerships with private, external providers are also essential to delivering the program.
The grant from the NSW Climate Change Fund covers all planting costs and the maintenance of planting sites for 5 years. Each of the individual sites will be registered under the Australian Government's Emissions Reduction Fund. This registration enables the projected 10-year carbon yield from the projects to be bid at Emissions Reduction Fund auctions, generating revenue to maintain the project sites beyond 5 years and to implement other park rehabilitation initiatives.
As long-standing stewards of NSW national parks, NPWS is aware of the need for the carbon planting program to be underpinned by a comprehensive and well-considered process of environmental assessment. Consistent with this requirement, and its statutory responsibilities to protect the State's natural and cultural heritage, a review of the potential environmental impacts of each tree planting project is undertaken before commencement. This Review of Environmental Factors also includes measures to mitigate the potential impacts of planting activities on the environment, supporting the long-term conservation benefits of the program.
Work has commenced on 13 projects, with a further 5 planned. The NPWS tree planting program is the first carbon credit project to have been established within a national parks system in Australia. All revegetation activities are being designed to ensure a balance of land management, biodiversity and carbon sequestration objectives.
Native trees and shrubs will be planted in staggered furrows that follow the natural contours of the landscape to reduce erosion potential. This approach will ensure that local landscape values are maintained, while also providing native wildlife with a diversity of habitat.
Given its potential social, economic and environmental benefits, the results of the planting program are being watched with keen interest by partner organisations and interstate counterparts. The Department is progressing a monitoring program to ensure the program meets the dual objective of carbon sequestration and habitat augmentation.
The Department appreciates the views of stakeholders and is committed to refining and improving its carbon planting program in line with new information and learnings. It is clear that meeting Australia's 2030 target of 26-28% emissions reductions is a challenging goal. A myriad of strategies are being used to combat emissions, and carbon-capture of this kind is one of the most effective tools we have.
Current tree planting projects
- Gwydir Wetlands State Conservation Area (229 hectares)
- Brindabella National Park (46 hectares)
- Kosciuszko National Park – 'Merambagao' (157 hectares)
- Kosciuszko National Park – 'Kalkite' (45 hectares)
- Willi Willi National Park (30 hectares)
- Tinderry Nature Reserve (36 hectares)
- Arakoola Nature Reserve (60 hectares)
- Capertee National Park (95 hectares)
- Everlasting Swamp National Park – Stage 1 (45 hectares)
- Hat Head National Park (16 hectares)
- Lachlan Valley National Park (260 hectares)
- Kwiambal National Park (40 hectares)
- Yanga National Park (60 hectares)
Planned tree planting projects
- Monga State Conservation Area (15 hectares)
- Upper Nepean State Conservation Area (40 hectares)
- Cattai National Park (15 hectares)
- Everlasting Swamp National Park – Stage 2 (43 hectares)
- Barwon State Conservation Area (100 hectares)