The Trough Monitor: $8m for community conservation projects

Its a Saturday morning, the first day of December, and before your editors had time to read their morning newspaper, a press statement arrived by email with news of another bundle of taxpayers’ money being earmarked for distribution to eligible applicants.

The statement from the office of Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage proudly put the sum right up front:

$8 million available for community conservation projects

This money will be sitting in the Department of Conservation’s Community Fund, set up on the Key Government’s watch in 2014 to support community-led conservation projects on public and private land.

Funds are directed towards practical projects aimed at conserving New Zealand’s indigenous biodiversity. This includes initiatives focused on restoring natural habitats and populations of our native species.

More than $25m has been awarded to 400 different conservation projects in the first four funding rounds.

These rounds usually take place annually with around $4.6m available. The 2018 funding round was put on hold while DOC consulted on better ways to manage the fund.

The allocated $4.6m was added to the upcoming 2019 funding round, making it almost twice the usual amount at $8m.

Sage explained that community organisations, iwi and landholders will be able to apply for grants from this trove to help save our native plants, birds and insects and habitats.

Biodiversity protection will be the focus of the 2019 funding round.  

She said:

Grants from the Fund help community organisations, councils, iwi and private landowners carry out practical conservation projects such as controlling weed and animal pests, planting and restoring habitats on private, Maori and public land so New Zealand’s indigenous plants and wildlife can thrive.

Private, Maori and public land seems to cover the country.  Is there any other sort?

Sage also indicated it will be easier than before to dip into this fund (assuming you are judged a worthy recipient).

Feedback from community groups, iwi and councils has led to changes in the Fund’s operation.

“Application forms and guidance are now live on the Department of Conservation (DOC) website to give potential applicants three months lead in time to plan and prepare their applications, substantially more than in previous years.

“The time between making an application and getting a decision is likely to be shorter as a result of changes in the decision making process.

“The intention is that groups will be able to get stuck in, start their projects sooner, and focus on what’s important – doing the mahi to restore indigenous biodiversity in their communities,” Eugenie Sage said.

Doing the mahi?

This is an earnest Greenie MP’s contribution to linguistic diversity, presumably, and if we don’t know what it means, well, we must go and find out.

The funding round goes from 25 February to 22 March 2019, with funding decisions announced mid-year.

More information and applications forms can be found here. 

The press statement includes examples of projects awarded funding in 2017.  Among them:

  • Russell Kiwi Protection (Northern North Island) – A project designed to reinstate and sustain comprehensive control of predators and other pests that threaten wildlife and their bush and wetland habitats on the 3,400 ha Russell Peninsula.

The statement finishes with some background notes, the very last one of which tells us there’s even more money available:  in addition to the $8m, funding from the DOC Community Fund will be made available for a pilot programme to trial regional hubs.

More explanatory notes on these hubs would be helpful.

The minister tells us only that (a) they will provide support and improve co-ordination across community groups and (b) the need for regional hubs was identified in the report Taonga of an Island Nation: Saving New Zealand’s Birds (2017) by the previous Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright.

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