New Zealand budget: $1bn for 'nature jobs' but dismay at lack of climate action.
Up to 11,000 jobs, including pest and weed control, to be created but critics call for greater emphasis on climate change.
More than a billion dollars will be spent by the New Zealand government creating “nature jobs” as part of its a pandemic recovery, including environmental work in regions, but critics expressed dismay there wasn’t more emphasis on climate change.
On Thursday the finance minister Grant Robertson unveiled more than NZ$50bn in recovery funding to get the economy back on track following a seven-week lockdown. Tens of thousands of people have lost work during the crisis, with further lay-offs expected.
Some 11,000 new jobs will be created in environmental work in the regions, conservation minister Eugenie Sage said, with people employed in pest and weed control operations, biodiversity projects and Department of Conservation nature ambassador roles.
“This investment in nature will not only support thousands of people with jobs but pay dividends for generations to come by giving nature a helping hand,” Sage said in a statement.
“The workers will help protect and restore indigenous biodiversity and habitat, help with revegetation of private and public conservation land and undertake riparian planting.
“There is an opportunity in these regions for people who have lost their jobs in other sectors to move into this habitat work”
Projects to receive funding including NZ$27m to eradicate the invasive wallaby population in the South Island, NZ$100m to control the rogue wild pine spread, and NZ$40m to clear rivers on crown land such as Lake Wanaka of weeds and pests.
Although the job creation was greeted warmly by conservation bodies, many expressed dismay at the lack of spending on climate change projects, especially as New Zealand has committed to being carbon neutral by 2050.
Megan Hubscher, a spokesperson for Forest & Bird said: “Our initial view is that there is a lack of detail to give confidence in an economic and climate reset.
“The $1bn on environmental jobs is an excellent investment and a major opportunity to save 4,000 native species heading towards extinction, but we want to see clearer direction on the climate and economy before we celebrate.”
The executive director of Greenpeace, Dr Russel Norman, said while he applauded the government’s spend on rail and environmental jobs, he noted that cleaning up the waterways would be effective only with a wholesale move away from intensive agricultural farming, the main polluter of the country’s fresh waterways.
“Unfortunately there’s only loose change from Grant Robertson’s pocket to address our most pressing existential challenge – climate change,” Norman said, adding that under current policies New Zealand was on track to increase net emissions by 20% from 2005 to 2030, according to government projections.
“The finance minister talked about Covid-19 being a one in a hundred-year threat, but climate change is the threat that will decide if we have another hundred years on this planet.”
14 May 2020