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Native trees: the post-budget answer to a pre-budget question

Comment: Adele Fitzpatrick, CEO of environmental charity Project Crimson Trust, reflects on what the budget means for nature and our native forests.

The pressing need for New Zealand to back its clean, green mantra by investing in reducing the threat of climate change has dovetailed with the moment of economic reform prompted by COVID-19.

The result is one that, as CEO of an environmental charity, I certainly couldn’t be more thankful for. A $1.1bn investment in the environment is a huge win for our country: for job creation, for the health and wellbeing of our people, and to create a better outlook for our whenua, tamariki and mokopuna.

But I challenge every one of us to not simply see this investment as a fix-all for our environment, but instead to take it as our call to arms.

We cannot rely on the Government alone to solve the environmental crisis on our behalf. The responsibility sits with all of us to make sure this investment does not become a debt that weighs heavily on the shoulders of our grandchildren.

This is an opportunity for innovation. We need to create long-term financial instruments that continue to channel non-government funding into enhancing and protecting our biodiversity.

As part of the package announced yesterday, the Government has dedicated $154.3 million to enhancing nature and indigenous biodiversity on public and private land through revegetation, pest control, and riparian planting.

The benefits we can expect from this kind of investment are much more widespread, and some are not easily quantifiable. This is much greater than an investment in flora and fauna.

Investment in our native trees means cleaner waterways; an issue that many of us want to see change.

It means job creation: jobs that are meaningful and proven to be beneficial in terms of physical health.

These native trees mean improved mental wellbeing as psychological theory backs city-dwellers gaining stress relief from rest and recreation in nature.

They will have positive impacts for entire ecosystems, adding biodiversity and hence resilience and supporting our water-based food sources.

They help balance the impacts of intensive farming by absorbing nutrients, as many of our farmers involved with our planting programmes will attest.

Native tree forests act as much needed carbon dioxide sinks, actively working to protect us from the ongoing effects of climate change and environmental degradation.

By creating more outdoor recreational areas, we create more reasons for international and domestic tourists to visit and put money back into an economy that will desperately need it.

At Project Crimson, we have been in the business of native tree planting for the past 30 years and, through our Trees That Count marketplace, we enable the generosity of others to support hundreds of planting groups around the country.

Since 2016, we’ve helped New Zealanders plant more than 400,000 native trees and we’ve seen first-hand how much New Zealanders value our native trees as part of our whakapapa and identity.

Our native trees have always been there for us; it is our turn to invest in them. Supporting our native trees will not only see a short-term economic upturn: our trees will provide value for hundreds of years to come.
 

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