Forest & Bird is welcoming a budget that devotes new funding and research to protecting and restoring New Zealand’s natural environment.
“In general, this year’s budget is acknowledging the importance of nature in New Zealand by devoting more money to natural heritage protection and devoting funding to transition towards a more sustainable economy," says Chief Executive Kevin Hague.
The Department of Conservation’s Natural Heritage funding has been boosted by $80 million compared to last year, of which $42 million comes from the International Visitors Conservation and Tourism Levy.
“This is fantastic – income from international tourists is going towards DOC, and the vast majority of the money will benefit our native wildlife and ecosystems, not just more toilets and carparks.”
A further $35 million comes from already announced funding for biodiversity.
$10 million over four years will go towards keeping DOC employees and assets safe from threats.
“In the face of increasingly hostile anti-1080 activity, this is absolutely the right thing to do. But it’s disappointing that precious taxpayer dollars have to be used in this way,” says Mr Hague.
Forest & Bird also welcomes $229 million for a Sustainable Land Use package to help clean up fresh water and wetlands, some of which will be used to support farmers to reduce pollution.
“We have long called for more support for farmers to transition towards sustainable farming methods. We just hope this money is used for initiatives that are actually transformative, not just tinkering around the edges. We need to be diversifying our farming, and farming within environmental limits, not just carrying out more planting and fencing.”
“This new money also needs to be backed up by strong regulations to protect our fresh water.”
In the area of climate change, there is $95 million for science and research, including on new technologies, and $25 million over four years on helping the agriculture sector to deal with the effects of climate change.
“We’re welcoming the funding for climate adaptation, but we will be watching to make sure the resilience measures adopted are sustainable and not destructive to nature,” says Mr Hague.
“When we destroy natural habitat to build dams for irrigation, for example, this is a continuation of the short-term thinking that caused rampant climate change in the first place, and only a band-aid for increasingly drought prone areas.”
“This budget begins to give us an opportunity to transition to an economy that has nature at its heart. We need to make sure we turn this new funding into lasting change that makes New Zealand better off.”