Not-for-profit organisation the Environmental Defense Society has responded positively to Prime Minister John Key's announcement that the Government will be investing more money in upgrading infrastructure that has already been built.
"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.
However, the environmental advocates are also encouraging the Government to put funds toward directing protecting New Zealand's "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," said Mr Taylor.
The EDS says the Department of Conservation is currently in charge of maintaining one-third of New Zealand's natural features, and argues DOC should be given more resources to "maintain and improve" the environment, which is an asset to the country's $30 billion tourism sector. DOC funding has become largely static in recent years.
"As a consequence biodiversity is in serious decline across a wide range of indicators. 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."
The EDS and other environmental organisations met with the Prime Minister late in 2015, they made the case for what they called a Dividend for Conservation of $50 million to address DOC funding issues. John Key said he would consider this proposal.
"We are meeting him again shortly to advance the discussions further as the 2016/17 budget round reaches a conclusion," says Taylor.
"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."