WWF's Conservation Innovation Awards

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Māori Carbon Farming Cooperative

80% of the two million hectares of land remaining in Māori ownership is considered marginal or unsuitable for modern farming and in many places is severely erosion prone. Over the past 30 years large tracts of this land have been converted to plantation forest mono-cropping pinus radiata. 

An opportunity exists to establish a cooperative model of carbon farming native species that will regenerate indigenous biodiversity, sequester large volumes of carbon and create both employment and income for Māori landowners. 

The project focuses on working with a small group of 10-12 East Coast Māori land blocks interested in carbon farming to develop the relationships and legal structures required to establish a carbon farming cooperative that will amalgamate land available for planting natives into deals with major emitters.

What conservation problem are you trying to solve?

This project addresses four conservation problems: 

  • Biodiversity loss through livestock farming 
  • Biodiversity loss/prevention through monoculture plantation forestry
  • Carbon emissions from polluting activities contributing to climate change
  • Erosion of hill country and riparian margins f

Native bush clearance 100 years ago to create farms for Māori and non-Māori farmers resulted in a productive industry for a few decades but contributed to wholesale eradication of endemic species all over the country, it also removed the protective cover or a relatively young landscape leading to erosion on a massive scale. Erosion continues unabated in many regions and will accelerate as climate changes brings more extreme weather.

While the forestry industry likes to claim clear-felled forests provide great habitat for endangered species like the karearea, there is no beating the indigenous habitat that the flora and fauna unique to Aotearoa flourished in for thousands of years before the bush was cleared.

How are you going to solve this conservation problem?

This project will contribute to the costs of business advisory and legal services to create a structure - possibly a cooperative or limited partnership - between interested land blocks and trusts - to enable a collaborative approach to presenting opportunities to major emitters who need to find hundreds of thousands of NZ carbon units to offset their emissions as they transition to truly carbon neutral business models. Deals done under this structure will enable landowners to fence and plant (or simply allow naturally occurring reversion) of native plants on their whenua. The project will develop a viable business plan for landowners to access capital to treat their land and establish the legal vehicle to facilitate bilateral and multilateral contracts and payments between the stakeholders involved.

What makes your idea new and unique?

There is no existing national Māori carbon farming cooperative. While this project will start with a small group of Māori land blocks that have already expressed an interest, the intention is that it can grow quickly to be a national entity - that may also include non-Māori land. It has some parallels with the Aboriginal Carbon Fund and we are working closely with that organisation in Australia to understand their model - which exists despite their being no compulsion on polluters to buy carbon units or pay for their emissions.  

Who will use your idea, and how will they benefit?

Māori own approximately two million hectares of land. Around 80% is steep, non-arable land with moderate to severe limitations for conventional agricultural use. The owners of this land will benefit from the opportunity to participate in a cooperative entity that prioritises planting/regenerating native trees and plants that create income from carbon farming and increase biodiversity for the benefit of indigenous species and future generations. Other income from sustainably harvested plants producing bioactive extracts will be another source of income and job creation benefits for landowners of this otherwise marginal land. New Zealand will benefit by having access to credits that enable NZ businesses to manage their transition to lower greenhouse gas emissions and NZ will be better able to meet its climate budget commitments.

What tasks or activities do you need investment for? How would you spend a $25,000 grant?

$5,000 - project management and land owner engagement/liaison/hui to engage land management committess/trustees/boards that expressed interest in the opportunity - explore what kind of arrangements will work for them and adapt the Carbon Farming Core Benefits Framework developed by the Aboriginal Carbon Fund (attached) for Māori land owners context.

$10,000 - business advice working with land owner representatives on company/cooperative/partnership structure that will work for them and establish administrative systems and structures to facilitate transactions and decision-making. 

$10,000 - legal fees to prepare constitution and shareholder/partnership agreements, and register new entity.

Are you a New Zealand citizen or resident?


I have read and agree to the Crowdicity Terms of Use, the Conservation Innovation Awards 2017 Supplemental Terms and Conditions, and the Crowdicity Privacy Policy


List five other ideas posted in the challenge that excite you. Why?






1. Collaborative high tech solutions to make predator elimination thousands of times more efficient – the project is well advanced, looks like it will have significant impact and reduce resources required to eliminate predators significantly

2. SWIMMING with E-COLI – we really need real-time, low cost, layperson accessible, water quality monitoring options throughout the country.

3. A Better Way to Fund Permanent Forest in Aotearoa – this is a really well thought out, innovative approach to get the investment urgently required into planting more native trees in NZ.

4. Te Wānanga Papa Taiao Pāuaua / Earthcare Enterprise Academies – combining conservation projects with young people and enterprise is an awesome approach to ensuring sustainable activities are led by upcoming community and business leaders.

5. Eco-Zoning – has huge potential to incentivise biodiversity protection through supporting small areas of native vegetation to be protected and in time it should encourage land owners to expand the area.


How could you improve your idea?

Our idea may be improved by allowing land other than Māori land to be included in the co-operative. It may be that some of the funding needs to be used in viability assessment in terms of administrative capacity in the coop around services like GIS mapping, but we intend to work with other stakeholders - both government and private - who have access to mapping systems and will enable efficiencies in the administrative aspects around land eligibility assessments, defining boundaries for allocated planting/regeneration areas, etc.

Tagged users
edited on Oct 14, 2017 by Manu Caddie

Kate Te Rure Oct 14, 2017

This is a fantastic initiative that will improve the environment.. We should all be supporting this for future generations.


Manu Caddie Oct 14, 2017

Thanks Kate! :)


Lisa Beech Oct 14, 2017

I was so impressed by meeting people from the Aboriginal Carbon Fund in Alice Springs last year, and learning about the amazing conservation work that is able to happen through this approach. So pleased to see an application of that in Aotearoa


Maui Ict Gis Oct 14, 2017

To add too, the Chapman Tripp report on the Maori economy states that Maori forestry contributes to 40% overall of the forestry sector. This kind of initiative would enable better, more informed carbon schemes - that would also look to support culture, environment and economic development in a way that is more sustainable.

Also, the current recommendations around forestry suggest that in order to meet our Climate Change obligations Aotearoa New Zealand will need to plant 100million ha's to meet them!!!


Maui Ict Gis Oct 14, 2017

Also, there' s a couple of other kaupapa on here that would be good to collab on, especially around pest control and papa taiao workshops etc.


Jeremy Rose Oct 14, 2017

Wonderful initiative. Matiu Rata, who promoted the idea of cooperatives and founded the Waitangi Commission, would be proud.


Mawera Karetai Oct 14, 2017

I feel very proud, as I read through this. Maori have always had the whenua and the awa at the heart of all we do. This initiative is putting those beliefs into action. Action means everything. He waka eke noa!


Paul White Oct 14, 2017

This initiative tackles one of the biggest problems for Maori land owners who would love to restore or protect areas of ngahere for the benefit of the environment. Carbon farming provides an opportunity to create income streams for whanau and hapu who want to do the right thing.


Sylvia Kaa Oct 14, 2017

Brilliant indigenous environmental project, I fully support it.


Marc Osborne Oct 14, 2017

Kia kaha , an excellent initiative with multiple benefits . At some time in the future could endangered animals be returned to the Eco zone to restore a Eco balance ?


Manu Caddie Oct 14, 2017

Definitely! The manu and insects will hopefully make their own way back. Pigs, deer and goats can cause significant damage during the regeneration stages of course.


Winston Moreton Oct 14, 2017

Def a fantastic initiative on the environmental front


Becky Wilson Oct 15, 2017

The idea has been progressed to the next milestone


Michelle Hinekura Collis Oct 15, 2017

I'm so excited about this initiative. Well done Manu for putting the kaupapa forward!


Anne Salmond Oct 16, 2017

Tena koe e Manu - tautoko! Great idea, huge potential.