Biosecurity and conservation jobs for redeployed workers

  • Hon Damien O’Connor
  • Hon Eugenie Sage
Biosecurity Conservation

Up to 160 redeployed workers are set to pick up jobs in 55 biosecurity and conservation projects to get the regional economy moving again, Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor and Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage announced today.

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 and will tackle the invasive weed – wilding pines, a $4.6 billion dollar threat to farmland, waterways and ecosystems.

“As we rebuild the economy, linking up people and jobs is vital,” Damien 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 per cent each year.

Forestry workers were among the first to feel the economic impact of COVID-19. Their skills translate well to what’s needed for wilding pine pest management, ranging from pulling young trees by hand, skilled chainsaw operation, to operating heavy machinery.

“We also see opportunities to support people affected in other sectors such as tourism and aviation,” Damien O’Connor said.

The Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage is pleased that in addition to the valuable wilding pine control work there are also plans to redeploy workers into new conservation jobs.

“The new jobs are in track maintenance, planting, and pest and weed control, to give native plants, birds, and wildlife a chance to thrive.

“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. DOC 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.

“Redeployment brings the opportunity to develop new skills, and with on-the-job training, online certifications can be earned relatively quickly. Retraining will be a key part of the country’s economic recovery,” Eugenie Sage said.

Opportunities for similar projects exist in the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, and Central North Island, with projects also being scouted in Marlborough, Otago and Canterbury, to give the greatest amount of workers the chance to work close to home.

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

About the work

The five biosecurity projects are near Kaitāia, Dargaville, Arthur’s Pass, Ohau, and Tekapo.  Two million dollars is allocated to projects managed by Environment Canterbury, and $1 million for projects managed by the Northland Regional Council.

Initially, work in Northland will focus on infestations surrounding the Awanui River, where trees are creating a flood-risk for Kaitāia.  Work along the Kaihū River near Dargaville will remove wilding pines and other problem trees.

In Canterbury work will focus on removing wilding pine infestations in the Craigieburn Forest Park and the Mackenzie Basin, protecting both farmland and conservation land in the area.

About wilding pines

Sometimes called New Zealand’s number one pest, wilding pines overwhelm our native landscapes, killing native plants and forcing out native animals.

Unlike commercial forests, wilding pines are weeds. They are self-seeded, spread aggressively and not intentionally planted.  Once they get established, they spread quickly. 

Without national intervention wilding pines will spread to 7.5 million hectares of vulnerable land within 30 years. The cost of unchecked wilding conifer spread would reach 4.6 billion dollars over 50 years. We would lose biodiversity, including many of New Zealand’s most sensitive and farming landscapes and water catchments.