Caring for the land, caring for people

Here in New Zealand, we have a remarkable natural environment, with unique ecosystems and native species. It’s taken millions of years for Aotearoa to develop this precious environment – and it’s up to us to protect it! In collaboration with communities across the country, we’re doing just that.

This World Environment Day, we’d like to shine a spotlight on one of the Government’s most exciting environmental initiatives: Jobs for Nature. This $1.245 billion programme, part of our COVID recovery package, is providing funding to conservation projects to enable them to hire the people they need to make a difference. It’s just one of the ways we’re making sure we protect our environment while continuing to create jobs and grow our economy.

Jobs for Nature, which will run over four years, has already gotten 2,979 people into work and is projected to create 11,000 jobs in total – facilitating mahi across the country and across a host of different environmental issues. The funding, which is managed across multiple Government agencies, is supercharging Aotearoa’s goal of becoming predator free by 2050 and speeding up our One Billion Trees initiative.

From restoring wetlands to regenerating native bush and controlling pests, the projects we’re supporting are boosting employment while nurturing Te Taiao, for the benefit of generations to come.

Hands holding kiwi

Experience Pūrangi, in East Taranaki, is a community project dedicated to conducting predator control to help the local kiwi population flourish. Its general manager, Rebecca Somerfield, says that recent Jobs for Nature funding, secured via the Kiwis for kiwi initiative, will be instrumental in allowing the project to expand their predator control area and create deeper engagement with the local community.

The area Experience Pūrangi currently looks after is 13,000 hectares. They have transmitters on eight kiwi, and two recently strolled beyond the protected area – a key sign that the population has grown and the protected area is at carrying capacity. They’ve just received funding that will allow a 5,775ha expansion, east toward Te Wera Forest.

“Our trust has been going for 15 years,” Somerfield says. “And unfortunately, if you don’t get that funding and you have to stop, that’s 15 years of amazing work and dedication to an amazing cause that can quickly go backwards.” The Jobs for Nature boost will help Experience Pūrangi to support the contractors they plan to hire over the next two or three years to clear and maintain tracks and to install and manage trap lines.

They’re working closely with Ngāti Maru – the project falls within that iwi’s rohe – and with Ngāti Tama and Ngāti Mutanga, who have also secured Jobs for Nature funding for kiwi conservation. “If people work in isolation we won’t achieve Predator Free 2050,” Somerfield says, “but if we work together, I actually think we’re on the right track to be able to achieve it.” The extra assistance made possible by Jobs for Nature has brought this goal even closer.

At the moment, Experience Pūrangi are investigating how many kiwi might be in the new area and starting conversations with the local community about their mahi – and the job opportunities it will afford. “There was great engagement from the community around that,” Somerfield says. “A number of them put their hand up to take on trap lines.” Many in the community are farmers, whose kids might find it hard to get work after school because of the rural setting. “So it’s a perfect way for them to get involved.”

One local rangatahi – of Ngāti Maru, with a keen passion for the whenua and for conservation – has already been taken on as an apprentice. “For him it’s a really exciting opportunity,” Somerfield says, “because not only is he being employed in the area where he grew up, but he’s also going to have the opportunity to walk away with a qualification as well. That’s one of the great things that’s come out of these Jobs for Nature – it’s not just a job, it’s a career, and an opportunity to develop people within the conservation space.

“That’s really exciting for us, to be able to train and develop someone – especially someone that is from that area and that rohe – for them to learn. Plus, we’re going to learn from them, too.”

Koru unfurling

This is just one of the thousands of stories made possible by Jobs for Nature. Elsewhere, the initiative is supporting the control of wilding pines on Mt Richmond and the protection of Fiordland’s marine life from invasive Undaria kelp, as well as digitised mapping of the original vegetation and waterways in Te Manahuna (the Mackenzie Basin), the restoration of geothermal sites in the Bay of Plenty, and the re-establishment of wetlands and mahinga kai in Moeraki braided rivers – among many other projects.

Jobs for Nature is prioritising communities hit especially hard by COVID’s economic effects, supporting them to take part in Aotearoa’s recovery. Projects re-establishing mānuka plantations (in Okere) and regenerating indigenous scrubland (on the post-eruption slopes of Tarawera Maunga) are employing world-class white water guides, in order to support them through a rough period until international tourism resumes.

Predator Free South Westland – an ambitious project that aims to remove possums, rats, and stoats from a 100,000ha area of public and private land between the mountains and the sea – is also being supported by Jobs for Nature. Up to 50 jobs will be created over the project’s five years, allowing locals to remain in an area suffering acutely from the tourism slowdown.

We’re proud to be taking action to facilitate kaitiakitanga and whakawhanaungatanga across the remarkable motu we get to call home. On this World Environment Day, we hope you’re able to get out into the world: to hear a tuī sing, watch a kererū take flight, or catch mānuka-perfumed breeze, and to remember that these are privileges we need to work to safeguard.  

Jobs for Nature is just one of the ways that we’re engaging with DOC, with communities, and with mana whenua throughout Aotearoa to restore and protect Te Taiao. For all of our environmental initiatives, check out this rundown. And to test your knowledge of our weird, wonderful natural world, give our World Environment Day quiz a go!

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