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Budget concerns for conservation groups

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 25/05/2017

The budget promises to spend millions of dollars on fisheries, biosecurity, conservation programmes and New Zealand's presence in Antarctica, but Greenpeace and Forest & Bird have been quick to say it does not address key environmental problems.

Steven Joyce's first budget, announced on Tuesday, will put $107.8 million towards conservation programmes and manage tourism growth on public land.

The funding continues National's commitment to a predator-free country by 2050, increases marine protection and has initiatives to protect threatened species, Conservation Minister Maggie Barry says.

Government conservation funding totals $466m in 2017/18, she said.

New funding of $9.6m towards our presence in Antarctica - including new buildings at Scott Base - $18.4m to strengthen biosecurity, $30.5m on fisheries' management and continuing to spend on climate change initiatives such as reducing emissions, the afforestation grants scheme and encouraging innovation and investment in electric vehicles was announced.

However, Greenpeace executive director Russel Norman says the Government is "actively funding" pollution and does nothing to address the agriculture sector's "spiralling emissions".

"The Government has already allocated around half a billion taxpayer dollars to subsidise industrial-scale irrigation schemes around the country, which will result in more cows and more polluted rivers and now it has just proudly announced it will be injecting even more cash into it," he said.

"As a very basic right I'd say New Zealanders deserve a budget that doesn't actively fund the destruction of our culture and environment."

Mr Norman said public subsidies of big irrigation needed to end, and the agriculture sector must be brought into a strengthened Emissions Trading Scheme.

Forest & Bird, meanwhile, said the budget "confuses the picture" and there is a $12m cut towards biodiversity funding in reality.

"Over the last nine years, the core budgeted funding for protecting our native animals, plants and landscapes has declined in real terms by nearly 21 per cent," says Forest & Bird chief executive Kevin Hague.

Department of Conservation's core natural heritage budget needed to double to $330m per year over the next four years, he said.

The New Zealand Recreation Association said the rising costs of recreation in this country had not matched the budget's promises towards managing recreational opportunities.

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