Sam Judd: Budget belittles environment

Trampers on Milford Track get their first view of MacKinnon Pass. Photo / DOC
Trampers on Milford Track get their first view of MacKinnon Pass. Photo / DOC

With the release of the budget this week, it is clear that across the board, funding for the protection of natural resources is becoming less and less relevant.

While I understand that a stronger economy will allow for more money for conservation projects in the long term, it seems that our natural resources seem to have been forgotten.

This budget is all about balancing the books. So let's take a quick look at our fair nation's biggest income generating activity: tourism. This alone is worth $23 billion to our economy, making it really quite important.

So why do so many people come here to visit? In reality, for the vast majority it is not so they can hang out in a convention centre and eat McDonald's while they gamble at a casino. Most come to enjoy our unique natural resources and our so-called "clean" landscapes.

But if we don't look after our natural resources now, in years to come our prize location will become about as popular as visiting Aaron Gilmore after a few wines.

Tourism has been given a $130 million boost, probably so that they can continue to pay high-flying advertising agencies to create deceptive marketing campaigns like 100% Pure to lure in nature lovers. Yet currently, the Department of Conservation is reeling after 72 jobs have been axed and the Dominion Post reported that the Ministry for the Environment (largely because the Emissions Trading Scheme has been thrown into a gaseous effluent pond to be forgotten about) has had "a total drop in budget from $738 million to $315 million".

Would a discerning visitor decide not to come here because as a country we refuse to accept a phenomena that 94% of climate scientists concur?

But cynicism aside and whether you believe that climate change is a problem (perhaps you wouldn't mind if it got warmer in New Zealand and don't care about those whose nations will disappear undersea or cook), protecting our natural resources is clearly in the interest of tourism. This industry creates widespread jobs for many demographics in society and many new eco-tourism initiatives (like diving in marine reserves) actually protect, rather than exploit our natural resources.

So compare the widespread benefits of developing eco-tourism to protecting the boom and bust practices that directly benefit only a small sector of society in return for large-scale environmental damage (such as irresponsible dairying), by removing the requirement to face up to the damage people cause to the atmosphere (let alone our waterways).

Many have criticised the government's budget for the clear political goal of achieving a wafer-thin surplus in election year at the expense of long-term interests (such as conservation and the environment), which will guarantee jobs far beyond our current administrations' reign.

Do you think that protecting our natural resources will also protect our economy in the long term?

- NZ Herald

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