WELLINGTON, April 22 - Jones, Associate Minister of Agriculture Meka Whaitiri and Gisborne Mayor Meng Foon each planted a native tree at Manutuke School on Sunday afternoon.
"I'm making good on my word to plant the first tree in Tairawhiti - the first place to see the sun," Jones said.
"I'm proud to be in Tairawhiti today with my ministerial colleague, Meka Whaitiri, who went to school at Manutuke."
Interim head of forestry at the Ministry for Primary Industries, Julie Collins, and Cindy Wills, the school's board of trustees' chairperson, also attended the ceremony and planted a tree.
"Today marks the official start of what will be a ten-year effort to get one billion trees in the ground across New Zealand," Jones said.
Five symbolic natives were planted - a Kowhai, Totara, Kahikatea and Puriri and Matai.
Jones said there was huge potential for forestry in the Gisborne region where land was eroding and soil quality was poor.
The government has set a target of planting a billion trees over a ten year period.
MPI estimates about 500 million trees will be delivered through current planting rates.
There will be a combined effort by government, landowners, commercial foresters, conservation groups, regional councils, iwi, communities, and others to increase that.
MPI also wants to make sure the right tree is planted in the right landscape.
"We'll be encouraging planting of both permanent trees and forests that can be harvested in the future."
New Zealand was a pioneer of large scale plantation forestry in the past, mostly of pine trees.