The Green Party is calling for a $1 billion environment package to create nature-based jobs to help New Zealand recover from the economic impact of COVID-19.
The package, announced on Sunday, is designed to create an estimated 7000 jobs, particularly in regions that have been hit hard economically by the virus.
It comes after last week's proposal by the Green Party of a $9 billion high-speed rail project that would connect key provincial centres with Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson says the nature-based package puts people, the climate and nature first.
"An economic response fit for the long-term challenges we face as a nation means investing in nature as Aotearoa's essential infrastructure.
"This will make sure generations now and in the future have healthy streams and rivers. It ensures native birds and wildlife are thriving, and wetlands and bush are regenerated."
The $1 billion package over three years would scale up investment in people and nature, and it would also support local communities, iwi, businesses, NGOs, councils and DoC to employ thousands of people in environmental roles.
Green Party environment spokesperson Eugenie Sage told Newshub the proposal will not only help with job creation in the short-term, but there are also long-term benefits too.
"This proposal will make sure generations now and in the future have healthy streams and rivers, healthy forests, that pests and weeds are controlled, and our natural areas are thriving."
She says nature-based jobs can start relatively quickly and they make use of skilled people in regions such as Queenstown who have lost their jobs. These jobs would include more native plant nurseries growing seedlings, farmers restoring and looking after rivers, and large-scale pest and weed control.
"We've got a real opportunity with the economic response package to COVID to invest in people, the planet and protecting the environment, and that creates a better future for Aotearoa New Zealand," Sage says.
She says investing in nature-based jobs can see more "meaningful" roles created more quickly than spending on big infrastructure such as new motorways.
"This investment creates thriving native forests and wetlands, assets that last centuries and suck carbon out of the atmosphere. It will avoid future pest control costs, better buffer coastal areas from sea-level rise and provide corridors for birds to come back to neighbourhoods."
Sage added the work opportunities are well-suited to people who have worked outdoors as tourist guides that are currently out of work, have people and project management skills or who want to quickly retrain for nature roles.