Almost 800 jobs created so far from Government's $1.1 billion investment in nature-based work

Newshub can reveal the number of jobs created from the Government's $1.1 billion of funding for nature-based employment from Budget 2020 is almost 800 so far. 

Data from the Ministry for the Environment shows that as of December 7, the total number of jobs created was 796, compared with 784 as at November 30,  726 as at November 9, 595 as at October 26 and 446 as at September 28.

The Ministry for the Environment does not hold a breakdown of the jobs filed, but they are looking at updates to reporting in the future to provide more specific details, a spokesperson told Newshub. 

The new roles were created as part of the Government's Jobs for Nature programme, following a $1.1 billion investment in Budget 2020 to create 11,000 environment-focused jobs in the regions, administered across five Government agencies. 

Across the programme, there are a range of employment opportunities including contracting, fixed-term, full-time, and part-time, depending on the activities required to deliver the funded projects.  

The projects contracted to date include jobs in wetlands restoration, aquatic weed control, predator control and eradication, wilding conifer control, Department of Conservation (DoC) track and hut restoration, and large scale planting.

The programme is "continuing to progress well", with more funding for projects being approved and jobs created as contracts are put in place to deliver on them, the spokesperson said. 

Projects approved are estimated to create 2192 jobs in year one and 5390 jobs over their project lifetimes. Employment will continue to trend upwards as more projects are approved.

Pest eradication training.
Pest eradication training. Photo credit: Department of Conservation

National's environment spokesperson Scott Simpson said the Government needs to provide more details about what kind of jobs have been created so far. 

"There is no mention whether the jobs created are full- or part-time, permanent or short-term, and if they are just replacing jobs that would have been filled under programmes that DoC and other agencies would have undertaken on a 'business as usual' basis," he told Newshub.

"This is a classic case of 'greenwashing' with Labour determined to make a gesture rather than a positive environmental impact. 

"We can't grow the economy by paying people to do 'make work' schemes. In order to deliver long-term growth, job creation has to focus on productive industries or new infrastructure."

A spokesperson for Environment Minister David Parker said it was "disappointing that National does not value the jobs created, the skills acquired, or the initiatives or work that is being done by New Zealanders to improve the environment". 

He pointed out that it includes funding approved for Predator Free 2050 - an initiative that National launched under former Prime Minister Sir John Key.

Environment Minister David Parker.
Environment Minister David Parker. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

The Government's Jobs for Nature programme was announced in Budget 2020 along with $1.6 billion to provide free trades and apprenticeship training and $3.3 billion for infrastructure.

The previous Coalition Government's $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund (PGF), led by former NZ First minister Shane Jones, was often subject to scrutiny over how many jobs it had created. 

By August this year, Jones said more than 13,000 people had been employed by the PGF, outstripping the 10,000 jobs target that the Government hoped it would achieve. 

But National said Jones was being disingenuous, as the figures did not show the true number of jobs created or the breakdown of what was full-time or contract jobs. 

Jones said he was "not too hung up" on looking at it in terms of full-time work. 

"It is going to endow and it has endowed regions with new infrastructure which leads to productivity and in that journey the lives of 13,000 people have been positively touched in an economic way."

Labour will over time replace the PGF with a $200 million fund.