Conservation has been a big winner of the government’s Covid-recovery budget – the largest spending package in New Zealand history.
The $50 billion relief budget has allocated almost $1.1b to environmental projects, and it’s claimed it will result in 11,000 new environmental jobs.
The spending includes $433m injected into a new regional environmental projects programme, $200m to DOC for more jobs, $154m to create regional biodiversity roles, and $315m for pest eradication, including wilding pine, weed and wallaby management.
Forest & Bird chief executive Kevin Hague is pleased to see the large investment in the environment but hopes it is backed up by green infrastructure.
“The unspent COVID recovery funding needs to deliver nature-friendly infrastructure that cuts New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions and delivers a transformation of fishing, farming, and forestry into a genuinely sustainable primary sector,” he said.
“There are some good signs for our rivers and wetlands. We will be working to make sure this money is spent to good effect, rather than on shoring up unsustainable and short term projects.”
The Walking Access Commission Ara Hīkoi Aotearoa had its funding doubled, which will see it receive an extra $1.8 million for the next two budget years.
Chief executive Ric Cullilane said without the extra funding, the commission would have had to sideline projects – including improvements to the Te Araroa Trail.
“We would have needed to cut our work alongside community trail building groups, councils and other partners,” he said. “This work includes creating, improving and promoting tracks, trails and other forms of public access to the outdoors.”
Federated Mountain Clubs president Jan Finlayson is “very happy” to see a boost in funding for the commission.
“It affirms the commission’s importance, and will allow it to achieve more and better recreation access,” she said. “With respect to increases for conservation, I think it’s generally positive – not only will it get work done, but it will switch more people onto the purpose and practicalities of conservation.”
Te Araroa Trail CEO Mark Weatherall is hopeful ‘shovel ready’ projects hinted at in the budget will have a positive impact on the trail.
“I’m working closely with the Walking Access Commission and I’m feeling confident and positive about the result of those discussions and where they might lead – it should be a really positive flow-on for the Te Araroa,” he said.
“Over the next few weeks, we’ll nut out what that looks like.”
The Environmental Defence Society CEO Gary Taylor is pleased to see a dedicated investment of $100 million to control wilding pines.
“[It] gives us a chance to get on top of that insidious threat to our outstanding high country landscapes, while additional funding will enable ramping up much-needed pest and weed control efforts elsewhere in the country,” he said.