10 May 2020

Government pulls forward biosecurity, conservation projects to provide work

5:56 pm on 10 May 2020

The government has pushed forward 55 biosecurity and conservation projects to provide work for up to 160 people who've lost their jobs during the lockdown.

Wilding pines spread near Lake Pukaki.

A key focus of the projects will be removing invasive wilding pine trees, which are a major threat to farmland, waterways and ecosystems. Photo: MPI

The projects in Northland, East Coast, Hawke's Bay and Canterbury are part of the $100 million redeployment package announced in March.

A key focus will be removing invasive wilding pine trees, which are a major threat to farmland, waterways and ecosystems.

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About $3m has been allocated for the projects.

Biosecurity Minister Damien O'Connor said it was work that needed to be done and accelerating the projects actually saved money as the cost of removing wilding pines rose by 30 percent each year.

"Forestry workers were among the first to feel the economic impact of Covid-19. Their skills translate well to what's needed for wilding pine pest management, ranging from pulling young trees by hand, skilled chainsaw operation, to operating heavy machinery."

Federated Farmers environment spokesperson Chris Allen said it needs $25 million per year for the next four years to get wilding pine trees under control.

"The wilding pine problem that we've got at the moment, every year we leave it, that's billions o more seeds that are getting blown into the ground and the problem is just spreading.

"Our future generations will thank us for the more that we can spend now the faster we can get it under control."

The Minister of Conservation, Eugenie Sage, was pleased there were also plans to redeploy workers into new conservation jobs.

"The new jobs are in track maintenance, planting, and pest and weed control, to give native plants, birds, and wildlife a chance to thrive.

"The government is committed to looking after people, their jobs and the land, waterways, and oceans we depend on. This is an initial set of projects. DOC is working with councils, iwi and community organisations to identify opportunities to ramp up conservation jobs to help communities recover from Covid-19 while giving nature a helping hand.

"Redeployment brings the opportunity to develop new skills, and with on-the-job training, online certifications can be earned relatively quickly. Retraining will be a key part of the country's economic recovery."

Opportunities for similar projects existed in the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, and Central North Island, the government said.

Projects were also being scouted in Marlborough, Otago and Canterbury, to give the greatest amount of workers the chance to work close to home.

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