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Government Investment in Nature Welcomed: ECO

The government’s funding package to protect New Zealand’s environment, the "Biodiversity Package" announced today by the Ministers of Environment, Conservation and Fisheries was warmly welcomed today by the national alliance of organisations with a concern for the environment, ECO.

"This area has suffered serious under-funding and neglect for a decade: so there is a lot of catching up to be done," says Cath Wallace, spokesperson for ECO. "We see this package as a significant improvement – but we also see the need for further investment if New Zealand’s natural endowment is not to be lost irretrievably.

"The total over five years of $14.1 million on improved understanding of the marine environment is very welcome. It is regrettable that this area has been neglected for so long that this will not go very far – more will be needed.

"Much more is needed to be spent on understanding, and in particular controlling, the damage done by bottom trawling, dredging and other fishing methods to the marine environment. Fisheries earn $1.4 billion per year and cause huge damage to the marine environment, so the $1.5-2-9m per year earmarked for the next three years is still fairly small - but at least in this package we have a start.

"Spending on marine and land biosecurity – protection from, and control of diseases, invasive pests and weeds, is very, very welcome – particularly the marine spending since these threats to the marine environment been ignored up until now. It is good to see funding for a Biosecurity Strategy for New Zealand: our treatment of this problem has been haphazard to date.

Spending of $11.5m foreshadowed on marine reserves is also both overdue and much needed. Like some of the other funding, some of the serious money is in years beyond the next election – we hope that when the time comes, whichever government is in power honours these commitments. Marine reserves are needed for fisheries protection, protection of invertebrates and the marine life systems and for recreation and tourism.

The total of $2.5 million for an integrated oceans management strategy suggests that the government is not fully understanding the size of the task ahead on this: we think it will need at least $5m and probably $8 million to do a proper job. We hope the government is not aiming too low on this. The marine environment administered by New Zealand is 15 times the size of the land area – it still needs far more attention and investment in its protection than it is getting. It is sobering to notice that the $18 million in this package for this year is still only one-sixth of the $120million package promised to the West Coast .

Over-all though, if this package is truly new money, then the government is starting off on the right track and it is very welcome.

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