Carbon trading company CarbonZ has stolen a march on the government by launching its own biodiversity credit system.
The scheme was launched on July 7 with seven companies signed up to purchase CarbonZ biodiversity action credits (CBACs).
The credits are for pest control on privately owned land. The first project being funded is through the Eastern Whio Link, a charity working in the upper Waioeka Gorge near Gisborne to protect the endangered whio duck population from predators.
On the same day CarbonZ started the scheme, Conservation Minister James Shaw announced a consultation process for a biodiversity credit system.
That will allow businesses and others to buy credits for conservation projects on private land. The government has yet to decide what the owners of such credits could do with them, such as offsetting the negative impacts of development.
Speaking from a boat halfway between New Zealand and Fiji, CarbonZ founder Finn Ross said his company’s CBACs work as a donation.
“The companies aren’t looking to resell it. It’s not an investment in that sense, it’s an investment in nature,” Ross said.
“I think a lot of them are understanding that they’ve got to put their money where their mouth is; there are various points in their supply chains having a negative impact on nature.”
Under the system, one CBAC will buy one predator trap. The traps are spaced 100m apart on the whio project. The CBAC owner can check the exact GPS location of where their credits have gone.
CarbonZ takes a 10% cut from the credits to run the CBAC scheme. Each new trap costs $150 along with $35 for a year’s consumables. Ross said the CBAC price is set above that total cost to make sure each credit will protect a minimum of 100m of riverbank.
Many companies are increasingly looking at biodiversity for their environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategies, he said.
To kick-start its biodiversity credit scheme, CarbonZ began with its existing client base from its carbon trading platform. Founding companies include civil contractors Troydon Contractors, vodka-based drinks company Native Sparkling, leather goods company Yu Mei and Ecostore.
Ross said the scheme is designed to be scalable for other conservation projects on private land in NZ. Private landowners will be getting the added biodiversity for free.
“So many farmers around the country want to do pest control but don’t have the funding.”
In the few days since the scheme began, CarbonZ had been approached by around six other conservation projects, and it is talking to more, he said.
CarbonZ said that its partners all have charitable status.
Eastern Whio Link was registered in August 2022. Its charitable purpose is to “suppress predators and other environmental pressures, to create a thriving ecosystem for whio and other species between Te Urewera and the East Cape”.
The project is led by Hamiora Gibson, who is also known as “Sam the Trap Man”. Gibson said in there were only four breeding pairs of whio in the project’s area when it started.
The biodiversity credits will enable the charity to scale up its work, he said.
Back in 2020, the group set up 30km of traplines, which was enough river habitat for 10 breeding whio pairs.
“Miraculously, all four breeding pairs achieved success in our first year, which was a first on the river for many years,” Gibson said.
Since then, they have seen 46 whio chicks fledge, which have more than tripled the whio population in the region.
The project now has more than 70 volunteers and 1,000 traps across 30,000ha to protect whio, kiwi, native bats and other native bird species.