A new 200ha eco sanctuary near National Park township and an enlarged Kia Wharite biodiversity project could be two results from Horizons Regional Council suggestions for post Covid-19 job creation.

New Zealand's regional and unitary councils have presented Government ministers with a 185-page list of possible "shovel-ready projects" the Government could fund to keep people in work.

The total asked for is $1.5 billion, and would create more than 5500 jobs. The nature-based projects are a balance to "concrete" construction proposals for building roads, rail and houses.

Horizons Regional Council's projects total $74 million, and include $7.5m for stage one of the Pokaka EcoSanctuary proposed across 2500ha of conservation land near Erua in the central North Island.

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The 200ha predator-fenced inland island proposal was introduced to Government ministers in March last year. It's a project of three Raethi-based iwi - Uenuku, Tamahaki and Tamakana - under the legal entity Uenuku Charitable Trust.

More wetlands, like this one in the Whangaehu Valley, could result from regional council proposals to Government. Photo / supplied
More wetlands, like this one in the Whangaehu Valley, could result from regional council proposals to Government. Photo / supplied

The $7.5m would provide access, trap predators and build a predator-proof fence around 200ha of second-growth virgin bush the trust hopes to own after its Treaty of Waitangi settlement.

The project already has a business case, and work could start quickly, project manager Steve Hirini said.

Another proposed project within the Whanganui region would be an enlargement of the Kia Wharite initiative that protects kiwi, whio and native forest across 180,000ha of private and conservation land in the upper Whanganui River.

The other projects Horizons wants would continue and boost work already under way - such as pest plant and animal control, and protecting important habitats like forest and estuaries.

The council's partnerships with landowners to fence and plant waterways, and forest or retire eroding hills are all oversubscribed, with waiting lists.

"A significant cash injection would enable fast tracking and provide major benefits to our region's social, economic, environmental and cultural wellbeing," Horizons chairwoman Rachel Keedwell said.

The council already has a proven ability to work with the community, she said, in projects like its 1.5 million hectare possum control programme.

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Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website