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Budget 2018 – has some very welcome elements

The Government’s 2018 budget has some very welcome elements such as extra spending on predator control and for enhanced capacity of the Department of Conservation, and a new unit to oversee enforcement of the Resource Management Act, the Environment and Conservation Organisations of NZ (ECO) said.

We are disappointed that it is well short of a transformational budget to deal with climate change, biosecurity risks to nature, and we see little on marine environmental protection. These are seriously underfunded, says the ECO said.

Climate change spending is for the new law, the Climate Change Commission, an industry investment fund and not a great deal more. “These are small amounts in a budget of billions for the greatest threat of our times.” Less than $12million is allocated for new climate change law work and setting up the Independent Climate Change commission.

ECO welcomes extra details on the Green Investment Fund and its priorities, but it is small compared to the need for a rapid transition to a low carbon economy.

“The Budget has some very important increases in conservation funding especially in 2-4 years’ time.” ECO welcomes the extra funding on predator control, the funding to strengthen the Department of Conservation’s capability, and the funding for many challenging biodiversity issues in the future. Predator control spending is very helpful, but it is no means enough.

Disappointingly, protecting nature from weeds, pathogens and invasive marine and other species is the Cinderella of the Budget. “Of particular concern is that protecting nature from Kauri die-back, other pathogens, invasive insect pests and weeds, and marine pests have received negligible extra funding.”

The Biosecurity funding increase is almost all devoted to the response to Mycoplasma bovis, the cattle disease. Most of the $85m allocated is for compensation to affected farmers, the rest is for responding to the outbreak.

There is just a measley $9.4million over four years for other biosecurity needs. “That is pitiful, especially in the context of plans to launch a whole new programme on biosecurity. It is shamefully inadequate.”

It is good to see in the One Billion Trees allocation of $75m over four years, recognition of the need to foster native trees. But the allocation is very small at $13.5m over two years, and that is only contingency funding.

The Provincial Growth Fund has many elements, but it is obscure how much of this will help the environment. The removal of subsidies for irrigation is very welcome, but we have seen irrigators saying in the farming media words to the effect of: don’t worry, we will fund our irrigation spending through the Regional Growth Fund.

We will watch carefully to see if that happens, and we invite the Prime Minister, Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Minister Shane Jones who holds the purse strings, to rule out such use of the Regional Growth Fund.

We welcome the declaration that the 2019 Budget will focus on the wellbeings and standards of living framework adopted by the Treasury. We recognise and welcome that this Budget contains spending on social issues and social capital, but environmental health is in dire need of more funding.

The extra funding for modernising the fisheries management system is welcomed but is likely to be insufficient to implement a camera monitoring system. The funding of an “independent review into the fisheries management system” is welcomed but it needs to be a wide review if the NZ fisheries system is going to move in to the 21st Century with ecosystem-based management.

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