COVID-19 recovery: Greens call for investment in people and nature

As Aotearoa starts focusing on the economic recovery from COVID-19 the Green Party is calling for an economic stimulus package fit for the 21st century that puts people, climate, and nature first with significant investment in nature based jobs.

“An economic response fit for the long term challenges we face as a nation means investing in nature as Aotearoa’s essential infrastructure”, said Green Party Co-leader Marama Davidson.

“This will make sure generations now and in the future have healthy streams and rivers. It ensures native birds and wildlife are thriving, and wetlands and bush are regenerated.

The focus on nature based jobs follows the Green Party’s proposal last week for a record investment in rapid electric trains to transform travel between towns and cities across the country.

“We’re proposing a $1 billion package over three years to rapidly scale up investment in people and nature. The proposed package will support local communities, iwi, businesses, NGOs, councils and DOC to employ thousands of people across New Zealand to restore and look after our natural landscapes, native bush, birds, waterways and coast.”

Green Party environment spokesperson Eugenie Sage said the package draws on some great ideas coming from councils, iwi and environmental organisations over the last few weeks for kick starting the economic recovery with jobs that give nature a much needed helping hand.

“Nature based jobs can be started relatively quickly and make use of skilled people who have lost jobs in regions such as Queenstown. An investment of this scale would see a major increase in efforts to turn around water pollution through fencing and planting beside streams, restoring wetlands, and coastal margins; tackling wilding conifers and other plant and weed pests.

“This package would see more native plant nurseries creating jobs growing seedlings and more work with farmers restoring and looking after rivers, estuaries and wetlands. It would see more large scale pest and weed control from wallabies to wildings to reduce their range and help restore the dawn chorus around Aotearoa.

“Investing in nature-based jobs can see meaningful jobs created more quickly than spending on big infrastructure like new motorways. Most of the funding will go directly to employing people – the tools needed for wetland restoration such as spades and seedlings are far cheaper than big excavators and asphalt.

“This investment creates thriving native forests and wetlands, assets that last centuries and suck carbon out of the atmosphere. It will avoid future pest control costs, better buffer coastal areas from sea level rise and provide corridors for birds to come back to neighbourhoods.

“These work opportunities are well suited to those who have worked outdoors such as tourist guides currently out of work, have people and project management skills or who want to quickly retrain and get their hands dirty helping nature.”

Summary of the proposed package:

  • $1 billion invested in nature-based jobs over 3 years.
  • Initial estimates suggest it would create 6000-7000 jobs (FTEs) directly with many more through flow on support to local suppliers and contractors.
  • Funding would be made available to support iwi, councils, NGOs, businesses wanting to undertake shovel ready nature restoration or predator free projects.
  • Funding would be divvied up across regions based on the level of impact from COVID and the need to restore nature so those areas with more people out of paid work would get more support.
  • Training hubs would be established in regions to quickly retrain people as needed.

More information:

  • $100 million would be available through a 50% wage subsidy per employee for councils, community organisations, iwi and government agencies to employ people in a revamped Taskforce Green scheme on projects which meet scheme criteria.
  • Projects would provide a boost for fencing, pest control, planting and weed control contractors; enabling them to employ more staff and expand their businesses; and allow new businesses to establish. Many skilled people will be without jobs as a result of business disruption associated with COVID 19. The proposed package creates funding and opportunities.
  • Organisations such as iwi and NGOs could apply to be involved and keep their staffing and structures in place while working alongside DOC or councils to deliver the work; such as trapping pests and looking after kiwi.
  • Iwi could seek funding to support restoration projects that they’ve already planned and hit go with the funding now available.
  • Predator Free 2050 Ltd could be expanded to more regions and rapidly scaled up in others to supercharge landscape scale predator control and backyard and community trapping efforts to bring birdlife back to towns, cities and farms.
  • Planned work to upgrade tracks could get underway quicker, especially in areas close to cities and towns so more New Zealanders can get out into nature close to home and maybe even see a real kiwi.
  • As a lot of this work is outdoors where physical distancing is easier, more people could stay employed with the appropriate safety gear and guidelines while we move between different COVID-19 alert levels. 

 

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