Skip to content

Emissions Trading Scheme and soil conservation opportunities

Emissions Trading Scheme and soil conservation opportunities

Updated 26 May 2015 10:34am

Greater Wellington’s role 

Greater Wellington does not administer the Emissions Trading Scheme, however the implications of the ETS are important in relation to the works that the Land Management department undertakes.  The ETS may affect and create opportunities for soil conservation plantings, potentially both conservation forestry and space plantings of poplars and willow.

Greater Wellington Land Management Officers can assist landowners with information about tree plantings on your property and whether they may qualify for inclusion in the ETS.  Greater Wellington has photos that can assist in mapping current vegetation coverage and looking at vegetation coverage around 1990 (an important date for the ETS).

This page also has some links through to information that may be useful including the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s website and some other sites with general information around carbon management.  The MAF website is the best place to find information on the ETS, and should be referred to for official definitions and interpretation of obligations under the ETS.

General background

The ETS has been introduced as a way to help New Zealand meet its international obligations regarding greenhouse gas emissions. 

The ETS will include all sectors of the economy (forestry, transport fuels, electricity production, industrial processes, synthetic gases, agriculture and waste) and all greenhouse gases by 2015.

For greenhouse gas inventory reporting, total emissions are reported from the five emitting sectors (energy, agriculture, industrial processes, solvents, waste). This combined total is known as gross emissions. When the "Land use, land use change and forestry" sector (LULUCF) is included the total emissions are known as net emissions.

How does the ETS affect tree plantings on you property?

Summary of Post-1989 Forest Land

Post-1989 forest land is exotic or indigenous forest that is established after 31 December 1989 on land that was not forest land on 31 December 1989.

Owners of post-1989 forest land may voluntarily join the ETS. They are then entitled to receive New Zealand Units (NZUs) for the increase in carbon stored in their forests as they grow. Those NZUs can be sold in New Zealand or converted and sold internationally.

Participants are required:

  • to report at least once every five years on the carbon stocks in their registered forest.
  • to surrender emissions units if the carbon stocks in their registered forest area fall below a previously reported level (for example, due to harvesting or fire)
  • to notify the Government if any part of the forest area registered in the ETS is sold or withdrawn, and, if required, to surrender any emissions units transferred for that area of forest.

Participants in the ETS may choose to register part or all of their post-1989 forest land. Additional forest areas can be added at any time.

Landowners have until the end of 2012 to decide whether to register for the First Commitment Period (2008-2012). If they do, all carbon sequestered since 1 January 2008 would earn NZUs. After 2012, they can still register, but only carbon sequestered from 1 January 2013 will earn NZUs.

No NZUs are earned for carbon sequestered before 2008.

If landowners do not register, the gains or losses in carbon stocks in their forests are retained by the Crown.

Summary of Pre-1990 Forest Land

Pre-1990 forest land is an area that was forest land on 31 December 1989, and that on 31 December 2007 is still forest land covered by predominantly exotic forest species. For these forests, forest landowners can:

  • harvest, and replant or regenerate their forests without joining the ETS or incurring liabilities (no reporting is required)
  • apply for an allocation of NZUs when a Forestry Allocation Plan is issued
  • apply for an exemption from the ETS if the forest area is small.

 No NZUs are earned for forest growth.

If an area of more than 2 hectares is deforested in any five year period from 1 January 2008, the forest landowner automatically becomes a Participant in the ETS unless the area deforested is exempt land. They must notify MAF of the deforestation activity, and then submit an emissions return.

If a forest landowner becomes a Participant in the ETS as a result of deforestation, they must surrender emissions units equal to the amount of CO2 emissions released.

A pre-1990 forest landowner may apply for an exemption from ETS obligations in two situations:

  • the total area owned by the person was less than 50 hectares
  • deforestation involves trees designated as weeds.

Pre-1990 forest landowners have no obligations under the ETS unless the land is deforested.

Deforestation after 31 December 2009 of more than 2 hectares of pre-1990 forest land must be notified to MAF within 20 working days of starting the deforestation by the person responsible.

Links to relevant websites

A reminder about some key dates for 2011



1 January 2011

First date for pre-1990 participants to surrender NZUs to meet deforestation liabilities detailed in an emissions return filed by 31 March 2010.
Participants who deforested in 2010 can commence filing emissions returns.

31 March 2011

Final date for filing emissions returns in 2011. All pre-1990 participants who deforested in 2010, and those post-1989 participants voluntarily choosing to, must file their emissions returns.

31 May 2011

Final date for pre-1990 participants to surrender NZUs to meet deforestation liabilities detailed in an emissions return filed by 31 March 2010 and/or 31 March 2011.

30 September 2011

Final date for applications for less than 50 hectare exemptions of pre 1990 forests.

30 November 2011

Final date for applications for an allocation of NZU under the Forestry Allocation Plan. (Pre 1990 forest)