Forest & Bird is calling on Aucklanders to tell their council to reinstate protection for nature in this year’s budget.
The Council’s ‘Emergency Budget’ more than halves the Environmental Services capital expenditure budget dropping support for pest control, the kauri dieback programme, and riparian planting, among other things.
“Our natural world is in crisis right now,” says Nick Beveridge, Forest & Bird’s Auckland Regional Manager. “Threatened kauri trees cannot wait, species that are being destroyed by pests cannot wait, and new biosecurity threats will not wait. These are things we must act on now.”
Changes to Auckland’s budget as a result of the pandemic include a drop from $17 million to $7 million for capital expenditure in Environmental Services, including the Natural Environmental Targeted Rate (NETR). NETR funds work such as protection for kōkako in the Hunua Ranges, wild pig control and marine and island biosecurity.
“We understand the need to cut costs, but don’t think Aucklanders would choose to cut the already tiny budget that protects our country’s precious species. New Zealanders care about their natural environment.”
“I also don’t think the council has made it clear to the public what they are doing. The consultation webpage features a prominent picture of a mother and son doing what looks to be stream-side planting. Well, we’ll get less riparian planting under this budget.
“Even when you look more closely at the figures, it is very difficult to tell what the proposals actually are – it’s very opaque. We don’t know which environmental protection work will be lost.
“Our largest concern is the kauri dieback disease programme. This iconic species is among the longest living trees in the world, and the largest. But they’re under threat and we have a window of opportunity to act. We urgently need more monitoring, research, compliance staff, and disease control. Things like delays to track upgrades may sound like a purely recreational issue, but in fact tracks need to meet a certain standard to prevent the spread of kauri dieback disease.
“Forest & Bird has already asked the Government to fund the kauri die back response as part of New Zealand’s COVID recovery and cutbacks by Auckland city just make this more urgent. Green stimulus actually delivers more jobs, faster and with more economic benefit.
“Other areas of budget cuts are also concerning to Forest & Bird. The Healthy Waters cuts reduce streamside planting and make it likely more places will be unsafe for swimming. Deferrals to climate change interventions such as better footpaths will not only lock in high carbon emissions, but have a huge impact on the community. And cuts to community board budgets will have a flow on effect as those boards are unable to contribute to funding for things like pest control.
“I encourage anyone who cares about the wider Auckland environment to submit against decreasing the Environmental Services budget, or any budget that helps our natural environment.”
-Council Emergency Budget Consultation Document lists a drop $26 million to $14 million for Environmental management and regulation capital projects, including a reduction in Kauri dieback research, community-led conservation grants, and support for rural landowners restoring high ecological value sites.
-The Emergency Budget Supporting Information lists a drop from $17 million to $7 million for Environmental Services including NETR. This includes reduced kauri dieback compliance monitoring, and delays to work including 35% of planned track upgrades, pest control including rat eradication on Waiheke Island, pest eradication on Kawau Island and the large pest eradication programme.