Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage has announced a $2.5 million boost for South Westland to help a regional alliance of local businesses and government agencies provide nature based jobs.
The funding is from the Government’s $1.3 billion Jobs for Nature package. It will enable local businesses to retain approximately 50 staff while they do different work until the businesses are able to function again.
“It’s pleasing to see an alliance formed of South Westland businesses working with Ngāi Tahu, the West Coast Regional Council and central government agencies, including the Department of Conservation (DOC), to keep skilled staff in the region working.
“This initiative will refocus tourism jobs to roles that help protect and restore natural areas and maintain and upgrade recreation assets in one of New Zealand’s most scenic and ecologically diverse places,” said Eugenie Sage.
West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O’Connor says this will be a shot in the arm for a region that’s been hit hard by the Covid-19 downturn.
“South Westland, especially Fox Glacier and Franz Josef, have been particularly hard hit. In Franz Josef alone, 90 per cent of the 510 residents work in tourism related jobs.
“This initiative will give the communities of Glacier Country more chance of surviving over the next few years while the international visitor market rebuilds,” said Damien O’Connor.
South Westland has been particularly hard hit by the Covid-19 downturn. In the largest Glacier Country town, Franz Josef, 90% of the 510 residents work in tourism related jobs.
“This initiative will give the communities of Glacier Country more chance of surviving over the next few years while the international visitor market rebuilds.
“The first work to be undertaken will maintain and improve existing tracks and other recreation assets in Glacier Country, such as the Copland Track and Cattle Track” said Eugenie Sage.
Other projects include removing lead from 15 backcountry huts to protect kea, who get poisoned from eating lead-head nails. Staff who once hosted adventure and experience based tourism activities will work on conservation advocacy programmes to educate visitors about the incredible biodiversity of the area.
“South Westland has spectacular landscapes where natural forces dominate and distinctive indigenous plants and wildlife. These jobs enable people to give nature a helping hand through pest and weed control, monitoring threatened species such as bats and bittern, and growing eco-sourced native plants for restoration projects,” said Eugenie Sage.
People will also be working on projects to increase the range of recreational opportunities for locals and visitors by building some new tracks in lesser known areas in the district, encouraging people to stay longer in South Westland.