EDS says PM should invest in nature, not just roads and rail

EDS has welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement that Government intends spending more on built infrastructure.

“It’s good at a time of fiscal surplus or near surplus to loosen the purse strings and bring forward much-needed investment on major infrastructure projects like Auckland rail and regional roads,” said EDS CEO Gary Taylor.

“But there’s also a compelling need to invest in our natural capital.

“We were disappointed that there was no signal of increased conservation funding in the PM’s Auckland address.  New Zealanders’ economic welfare depends in large part on our natural attractions to domestic and international tourists. DOC has a key role in managing those core assets – and tourism is a critically important part of our business growth agenda.

“New Zealand relies on DOC to maintain one-third of our country. Our national parks and reserves are core assets in our $30 billion tourist sector. DOC needs adequate resources to maintain and improve those assets but its funding has flat-lined for years.

“As a consequence biodiversity is in serious decline across a wide range of indicators (as we described in our 2015 publication Vanishing Nature).

“Active pest management covers only a small proportion of our native ecosystems. Weeds including most notably wilding pines are proliferating at an exponential rate, overtaking native habitats and destroying outstanding landscapes like the tussock grasslands in the Mackenzie Country. And DOC’s investment in community partnerships is slated to be halved next financial year.

“When key environmental groups met the Prime Minister late last year, we made the case for what we called a Dividend for Conservation of $50 million to address these issues. We presented a detailed outline for that expenditure and argued that DOC’s budget needed right-sizing after years of neglect.

“The Prime Minister agreed to consider our proposals. We are meeting him again shortly to advance the discussions further as the 2016/17 budget round reaches a conclusion.

“The Government is investing hundreds of millions in supporting the dairy sector. It’s time to shift mindsets towards seeing natural heritage as a valid investment,” Mr Taylor concluded.

Download full statement (pdf)

Last updated at 11:20AM on January 28, 2016