Sunday, March 3, 2024

Wild pine money good but not enough

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Redeployed workers are to attack invasive wilding pines posing a $4.6 billion threat to farmland, waterways and ecosystems.
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But Federated Farmers says the Government’s redeployment plan of just 160 workers will barely dent the invasive pest.   

Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor and Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage say up to 160 redeployed workers will pick up jobs in 55 biosecurity and conservation projects to get the regional economy moving again. 

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

“As we rebuild the economy linking up people and jobs is vital,” O’Connor said.

“This is work that needs to be done and what we’ve done is accelerate projects, which also saves money as the cost of removing wilding pines rises by 30% each year.”

Sage said in addition to the wilding pine control work there are also plans to redeploy workers into new conservation jobs in track maintenance, planting and pest and weed control to give native plants, birds and wildlife a chance to thrive.

The new projects will provide work for three to six months and will begin over the next two to three weeks.

“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 and the Department of Conservation 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,” Sage said.

Federated Farmers environment spokesperson Chris Allen welcomed the extra funding for clearing wilding pines but said much more is needed.

“Hopefully, this is a taste of a much more extensive environmental work programme funding coming in Thursday’s Budget as, unfortunately, 160 new jobs will only just touch the sides when it comes to controlling these trees.” 

Allen said the wilding pine problem has been raised by Feds with the Government many times and featured in the environmental and economic work programme suggestions the organisation made to the Government in March.

Wilding pines are conifers, which grow where they are not wanted, spread by wind-blown seeds and have been recognised as a pest weed problem for many years.

A national control programme struggles with this extremely difficult to control biodiversity problem.

“We estimate at least a doubling of the current annual spend is required.

“Something in the order of $100m over the next four years will be needed to turn the problem around,” Allen said.

Getting rid of wilding pines, whether it be in high country tussock lands that are catchments for a significant proportion of hydro electricity generation or be it exotic trees spreading into native bush is vital.

“The beauty is that money spent now will achieve much more than if we wait just another year.

“This is a clear example of where advancing spending will actually save a lot more time, money and effort in the medium to long term.”

Federated Farmers has its fingers crossed the Budget will bring a significantly larger commitment to a wide range of initiatives that will provide much-needed employment, make good economic sense and have lasting environmental benefits.

They include more money for wilding pines control, a big boost to pest control and significant funding for catchment-based initiatives such as riparian plantings, wetland enhancement and soil erosion, all of which provide water quality and indigenous biodiversity benefits.

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