An initiative that will see $1.4 million in Government money pumped into creating conservation jobs in the Bay of Plenty has been described as a "lifeline".
Announced today, the funding for the three new Jobs for Nature projects has been welcomed by two Bay iwi leaders, with a tourism operator hit by border closures also set to benefit.
Conservation minister Kiri Allan said up to 30 people will be employed in the projects that will boost conservation efforts in Bay of Plenty spots including Mt Tarawera, Okere Falls and Kaingaroa.
Allan said the projects would enhance some of the region's "most special places" while also supporting its economic recovery.
Up to 19 staff would be employed from Rotorua's Kaitiaki Adventures for two projects valued at close to $600,000 over one year.
Kaitiaki Adventures is an adventure tourism company in Rotorua that specialises in whitewater rafting, sledging experiences on the Okere section of the Kaituna river.
The projects would focus on clearing wilding pines on Mt Tarawera and removing noxious plants in the Otanewainuku Ecological Area in Okere.
It would allow Kaitiaki Adventures to "retain and redeploy these world-class white water guides to work on environmental projects as a stop-gap measure until international tourism resumes", Allan said.
The Mt Tarawera project would also involve the Department of Conservation, Ministry for Primary Industries, Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Ngāti Rangitihi.
Te Mana o Ngāti Rangitihi Trust chairman Leith Comer said it was a "wonderful initiative" as it allowed the iwi to restore the environment and ecology locally while getting people into "real and worthwhile" sustainable employment.
He said it would keep tourism providers "on a lifeline" as the revitalisation of the regionally important sector was "not too far away".
Kaitiaki staff will work as ground crew to conduct hand-pulling in steep alpine sections of the mountain, helping to protect regenerating post-eruption indigenous shrubland, alpine vegetation and geothermal ecosystems.
The Okere project will see staff working on a number of small jobs in the Otanewainuku Ecological Area including harakeke transplanting, re-establishment of manuka plantation, pest control and erecting nesting boxes on selected areas.
NZME approached Kaitiaki Adventures for comment.
The third project aimed to restore and improve geothermal, freshwater and cultural sites in the Ngati Tahu-Ngati Whaoa rohe, protecting it for future generations.
The rohe is widespread but covers the Kaingaroa and Tauhara areas, among others.
About $826,000 will be spent over the next four years on the project that will also benefit local kaumatua and whānau with waste wood being given for firewood and the enhancement of vegetable gardens at two local marae.
Ngati Tahu and Ngati Whaoa Runanga Trust environmental manager Evelyn Forrest said the funding would be "extremely important" as the iwi had been "hugely impacted" by Covid-19.
She said the project would allow them to create sustainable jobs and keep people employed while standing true to the iwi's "environmental focus" and increase their "capability and capacity".
Both iwi and non-iwi members would be eligible for the work the project would provide and she said future partnerships mean it would be likely employment for these people could continue for years to come.
"The Bay of Plenty relies on tourism, forestry and local businesses, all of which have been heavily impacted by Covid-19. This $1.4m investment helps protect a unique environment, while also offering some fantastic new training and job opportunities to locals as the economy recovers," Allan said.
Jobs for Nature is a $1.245 billion programme that is part of the Government's Covid-19 recovery package.
The programme is expected to last four years and provide 11,000 jobs.
Among previously announced funding allocations was $3m to improve freshwater in the Bay of Plenty.
Over two years the project was expected to employ around 135 people to fence 174km of private land and plant up to 450,000 native plants to protect waterways and enhance native biodiversity.