Local food and climate change

We have to change our narrative around climate change. Our government tells us that we are too small here in New Zealand to make any positive impact on climate change. But we have been leaders in social change. We were the first nation to give women the vote in 1893, we have been world leaders in social policy and were the first in the Western alliance to take significant action against nuclear proliferation. We can lead with climate change do – or at least do our bit to help.

Growing the local food system generates multiple benefits for the community. As we strengthen the system, we anticipate benefits for health and local economies. Into this mix we can create further synergies by including strategies for climate change mitigation.

A recent NZ Herald article by Victoria Ransom and Phillip Mills highlight the benefits of carbon sequestration in trees and soil. If we were to plant 187 million permanent native trees by 2030, we could return to 1990 emission levels. That’s 40 trees for every New Zealander or 6.3 million trees in Northland. And we can anticipate that displacing oil with renewables will enhance these gains.

Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries data reports sequestration rates ranging from 7tonnes of CO2/ha for unimproved pasture to 1238 tonnes of CO2/ha for lowland podocarp broadleaf forest. Mixed manuka/kanuka scrubland ranges between 238 and 554 tonnes of CO2/ha.

plantings benefits

Imagine if we were to accelerate the rate of plantings around waterways, roadways and city streets. We can create food forests in urban areas and food for bees in rural areas. As our waterways become more protected by a mantle of trees, less sediment and nutrient flows into the water and water quality improves. The network of green corridors enhances birdlife and makes our region even more beautiful. And these efforts sequester carbon hopefully protecting us from the worst impacts of climate change.

Kanuka is a great option for planting. It grows much bigger than its cousin manuka, reaching up to 18 metres. While not sequestering as much carbon as denser mixed forest, it  sequesters much more than pasture. The honey has qualities as least as good as manuka.

The impacts of climate change are scary and seem to be intensifying more quickly than most of us anticipated. Its time to shake of our inaction knowing that we have options, and individuals can make a difference.


Kanuka (Kunzea ericoidies) grows to an impressive size and its early summer floral displays are under-rated.

2 thoughts on “Local food and climate change

  1. Pingback: Local food and climate change | Local Food Northland – WORLD ORGANIC NEWS

  2. Interesting comments Peter. I like the idea of widespread manuka and kanuka planting, especially on poor quality, hilly land that is likely to further degrade as extreme weather events occur more frequently. I think that we also need to keep in mind the morality of caring for the climate and the planet. We need to sequester carbon and live carbon-negative lives because it is the right thing to do for the climate, the planet and all life on earth. To argue that we are a small country and therefore its okay for us to continue to harm the climate, exemplifies the reasoning which has moved the planet to such a precarious position.


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