Biosecurity, conservation jobs for 160 redeployed workers to rebuild regional economy

Up to 160 redeployed workers are set to pick up jobs across 55 biosecurity and conservation projects to rebuild the regional economy, Biosecurity Minister Damien O'Connor and Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage announced on Sunday.

The new biosecurity projects, located in Northland, East Coast, Hawke's Bay and Canterbury, are part of the Government's $100 million redeployment support package, announced in March. The projects will tackle waterways, ecosystems and the invasive weed, wilding pines - also known as New Zealand's number one pest - which pose a $4.6 billion threat to farmland.

Initial 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, wilding pine infestations in the Craigieburn Forest Park and the Mackenzie Basin will be removed, protecting local farmland and conservation land.

"As we rebuild the economy, linking up people and jobs is vital. 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 percent each year," O'Connor said in a statement on Sunday.

"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."

The Govt announced a $100 million redeployment package for Gisborne forestry workers impacted by COVID-19 in March.
The Govt announced a $100 million redeployment package for Gisborne forestry workers impacted by COVID-19 in March. Photo credit: Getty

There are also plans to redeploy workers into new conservation jobs. There are employment opportunities in track maintenance, planting and pest and weed control, a prospect Sage is pleased about, "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," Sage said in a statement. "This is an initial set of projects. The Department of Conservation (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."

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 number of workers the opportunity to work locally.

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