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Government Raids Conservation Budget To Pay For War On Nature

The only major new ‘environmental’ spend in the Government’s 2024 budget is a $92 million commitment to attack the country’s environment, Forest & Bird says.

The $92 million will be spent to override environmental protections with the Fast-track Approvals Bill and to further weaken environmental protections by rewriting the RMA, while at the same time funding for Conservation, climate change, and environmental protections is being slashed.

“The Government is effectively raiding the Conservation budget to pay for its assault on nature,” says Forest & Bird Group Manager Conservation Advocacy and Communications Richard Capie.

Forest & Bird is warning that large cuts to climate change, environmental and conservation programmes in this year’s Budget will make the country much less resilient to the impacts of climate change, leaving more New Zealanders at risk from flooding, and will do nothing to protect the more than 4000 native species that are in real trouble.

“Along with cutting the Department of Conservation’s budget by $45m, the Government has also taken a torch to initiatives designed to better protect nature – Jobs for Nature, the establishment of the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary, and a programme designed to clean up contaminated mine sites on public conservation land.

Major cuts to programmes designed to protect the environment include:

  • Ending Jobs for Nature that employed New Zealanders across the regions in jobs to protect nature
  • Cutting back the programme to clean up contaminated mine sites on public conservation land
  • Taking $45M from DOC’s operational budget “consultants, contractors and back office”
  • Stopping work on the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary (no longer being proceeded with)
  • Reducing DOC’s capacity to advocate for nature and to protect nature through legal action
  • Getting rid of the Climate Change Response Fund that was aimed at helping New Zealanders cut emissions and adapt to climate change
  • Cutting climate change initiatives aimed at financially helping New Zealanders to live in warmer, drier homes and have access to affordable water heating
  • Removing the Climate Change Commission’s function to provide advice on pricing agricultural emissions and cutting the Ministry for the Environment’s capacity to gather data to help decision making
  • Stopping work to improve the quality of water in lakes and rivers.
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“It’s ironic that a week after the Government announced its plans for more “responsible” mining on public conservation land, it cut funding for DOC’s clean-ups of old polluted mine sites,” Mr Capie says.

Of the 305 known contaminated sites inherited by DOC on the South Island’s West Coast, 246 are associated with mining.

Reducing investment in improving water quality in lakes and rivers and cuts to DOC’s capacity to advocate for nature and protect nature through legal action will also weaken environmental protections. 

Forest & Bird says that the Government is ignoring the climate and biodiversity challenges Aoatearoa New Zealand faces.

“It’s hard to believe that in the 21st century we have a Government that seems determined to put its head in the sand and ignore the reality of the threats we are facing to our wildlife and our communities. The March for Nature on June 8th in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland is time for New Zealanders to stand up and say, ‘enough is enough’!

"With the Fast-track Approvals Bill clearing the way for open-cast coal mines on conservation land, destroying the habitat of kiwi and species which are even more endangered, the Government has today delivered another blow to key protections for New Zealand’s unique natural landscapes and precious native species."

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