Budget 2020: Mixed reaction to Budget's funding for regions, waterways

There has been a mixed reaction to the Government's regional funding announcement in this year's Budget.

The Government promised to create thousands of jobs in the regions through a raft of programmes focusing on improving the health of the country's waterways.

A package of $433 million will provide support to restore mini wetlands, stabilise river banks, remove sediment and provide fish passage, with around 4000 jobs predicted to be created over five years.

Fish & Game New Zealand said the announcement showed the Government had taken a "highly strategic approach in how it spends public money to bring a much needed boost for the environment". 

"We welcome this investment to restore our wetlands and our lakes and rivers," the organisation said in a statement on Thursday. 

"This will help New Zealand become more environmentally sustainable, so we can safely swim and fish in our lakes, rivers and streams."

The Budget also included a new $200 million fund to boost predator control efforts, regenerate planting and improve tracks and huts on public conservation land.

A further $315 million was earmarked for biosecurity, including enhanced weed and pest control, and $154 million for new jobs enhancing biodiversity on public and private land. Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage said that initiative could create around 1800 new jobs. 

Russel Norman, executive director of Greenpeace, said the organisation was "quietly applauding" the Government's conservation and freshwater measures.

However, much more remained to be done.

"Looking at where money’s gone in the massive spend-up, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the climate crisis was no longer with us," Norman said.

"Nature needs a break, and that’s a good start. The freshwater restoration money will help fix some problems, though it doesn’t change the agricultural system that is continuing to cause harm."

Norman said the issue of combating climate change only received "loose change" in the Budget.

"Under current policies New Zealand is on track to increase net emissions by 20 percent from 2005 to 2030 according to Government projections," Norman said.