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The funding dilemma

Date: 26th April 2023

Funding is a constant challenge – the wilding pine space is no stranger to this as we face significant reductions in the 23/24 financial year which may last up to three years.

We cannot afford to stop now – wildings don’t stop growing because funding reduces. We have to lobby for more government funding AND think creatively about how we supplement the funding we will get so as to sustain the significant gains made with control, skilled people and the nationwide collaboration that is at the core of the national wilding programme

Skippers canyon road – an iconic landscape where wilding trees should not be.

Grant Hensman, Chair of the Whakatipu Wilding Conifer Control Group recently wrote the piece below for the groups last newsletter. We urge you to read it and spread the word. It would be hard to find a more compelling case in the environmental space than that for continuing the wilding programme.

Grant Hensman, WCG Chairman

Funding, or the lack thereof, is a perennial question for all sorts of voluntary and statutory organisations.

Charitable trust, sports groups, volunteer organisations and government agencies to name but a few. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this is our greatest challenge. When we have funds, as we have had through MPI in the last three years, spending them wisely is our duty. Raising further funds to allow the essential work to continue is part of our job.

Government to their credit recently voted $100 million nationally over four years to the wilding pine program. This was front loaded which was the right thing to do and with so many competing voices for funds across many good causes we can all appreciate the decisions that have to be made.

What we don’t understand now is the reduction in funding to a level below even maintenance levels nationwide!  The question is, what is the point in investing money into a program and then reducing the funding to a level that doesn’t allow you to maintain those gains. As a business case to any party, it would not make sense. You simply don’t put money into something in business without the capital to see the investment through to a return.

MPI have updated a Cost Benefit Analysis report produced in 2018 by “Sapere Research Group”, a consultant to the government on the threat that wildings pose to the economy if left unchecked. The figure in 2018 was 38-1.  The new figure, (yet to be released), we understand to be more than compelling and effectively a no brainer.  Below is an excerpt from that 2018 Report.

1. The benefits of control and protection are clear and greatly outweigh the costs.

2. Both intervention options (Minimum Plus and Intermediate) have a demonstrably higher benefit return than costs.

3. Doing nothing, or doing little, generates a large negative impact: a loss of $4.6 billion. Without national intervention, wilding pines will then spread to 7.5 million ha of vulnerable land. This could take as little as 15 to 30 years.

4. The consequences of doing nothing to stop this spread are profound. For example, the 7.5 million hectares of surrendered land by year 50 in the Do-Nothing scenario includes 537,000 hectares of productive land, which is worth $739 million of productive potential. In addition, the surrender affects water with productive potential of $2.9 billion (consisting of $1.95 billion of irrigation impacts and $955 million of hydro impacts). The biodiversity loss will include New Zealand’s most sensitive landscapes and water catchments.

5. Not only will doing nothing fail to achieve the objective of sustainable management, it will result in substantial cost for the country. It can be as little as $5-$10 per hectare to treat sparse infestations however control costs escalate over time. And treating dense infestations will typically cost $2,000 per hectare to aerial boom spray.

6. The CBA demonstrates that the Intermediate option for Phase 2 is sufficient to markedly roll back the area occupied by wilding conifers and ‘turn the tide’. It will achieve a net benefit of $6.1 billion (net present value), a benefit ratio of 38:1.

7. The Minimum Plus scenario will achieve control but will have a smaller net benefit, because it achieves less control and protection in the near term. The net benefit of this option is $2.6 billion (net present value).

Question for you all… Who has heard of a more compelling cost benefit ratio than that in any business case? Not me. The issue is they have not released the new figure despite repeated requests.
One wonders why and suspects politics and setting budgets is at play at the expense of ignoring business sense. This is MY view.

It is not all doom in our district, as due to the ongoing vision of QLDC who instigated this group we have a significant base line of funds which when combined with other support allows the program to continue but not at a winnable level.

If we are to complete this task and be unemployed, which we are happy to achieve, then inflation adjustment to sums set years ago and an increase in regional and national support can’t be substituted.

We will continue both locally and nationally to lobby and promote what is a fundamental threat to our flora and fauna and landscapes, which is exactly what QLDC saw 15 years ago.

You all have an important role in this, which is to spread the word and promote what is happening to your contacts. Remember a single seed, (voices against wildings), can plant a thousand forests.

Grant Hensman 
WCG  Chairman

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