Hundreds already employed in jobs for nature

Hundreds of people are already employed working for nature as part of the Government’s COVID recovery plan, Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage announced today while visiting workers on the ground on Canterbury’s Craigieburn Range today.

“I’m delighted that 340 people have already been employed on conservation projects so far as part of the Government’s investment in job redeployment for those affected by the COVID-19 downturn,” said Eugenie Sage.

“The jobs involve a range of conservation work including improving walking tracks, fencing, trapping predators to look after birds and bush, and removing wilding pines.

In March, the Ministers’ for Economic Development, Employment, Forestry and Regional Economic Development announced $100 million to provide employment opportunities for workers in the hardest hit regions.

“As part of this package, the Department of Conservation received $3.9 million to deliver job opportunities doing conservation work. This work will ramp up as the funding and projects come online for the $1.1 billion for nature based jobs announced in Budget 2020.

“Since field work re-commenced at Alert Level 3 DOC has completed 18 projects that employed 110 people. There are currently 42 projects running with 230 people doing important conservation work.

“It is especially pleasing that DOC has been able to get these projects underway, given the challenges of recruitment and organisation during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The Department of Conservation has been allocated more than $500 million of the $1.1 billion nature based jobs package to deliver employment opportunities for 6,000 people over the next four years.

“DOC is working at speed to develop job opportunities to help workers displaced out of tourism hospitality and other severely impacted industries,” says Eugenie Sage

“The aim is to get projects online as quickly as possible. Some projects will commence soon after the new financial year in July 2020, while others will take more time to phase in.

In North Canterbury, a large-scale wilding pine control operation is underway to stop the spread of these invasive species from taking a hold in the spectacular high country landscapes of the Waimakariri Basin that includes Craigieburn Forest Park and Korowai-Torlesse Tussocklands Park.

Eugenie Sage visited the project today to meet new contractors who lost their previous jobs in the tourism, hospitality, recreation and hunting sectors due to the impacts of COVID-19.

“Two ground crews are targeting wilding conifer seedlings with loppers, grubbers and hand saws. Helicopter companies affected by the downturn in international tourism have also been hired to carry out aerial control to dense stands of fully grown pines. This work is weather dependent.

“Wildling pines were spreading so quickly across public and private land they have been described as marching towards Christchurch. DOC surveyed the Torlesse Range at the start of the year and the invasive trees were dotted along the top of the range in key seed dispersal sites threatening to spread further east.

“At nearby Mt Bruce, another contractor is removing 30 ha of mature Douglas fir trees off a hillside. Trees are cut down by chainsaw and flown to nearby logging trucks by helicopter. Originally planted by the Forest Service in the 1960s for erosion control, the trees are a fire risk and their seeds threaten the regeneration of native plantings including beech forest, manuka shrublands and native tussock.

“This combined control will have a positive benefit for the many native species that are found in the wider area and rely on the natural habitat to thrive. It also protects the huge investment that has been put into wilding conifer control in the past four years of the national wilding conifer control programme, and the work before that from private landowners, trusts, regional councils and DOC.