The Government hopes 2000 jobs will be created over six years from pouring $162 million into cleaning up waterways in the regions.
Most of the package, announced today by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
at the Labour Party congress in Wellington, is for Kaipara Harbour, which will get a $100m clean-up that is expected to result in 1000 more jobs over six years.
Ardern has also announced an extension to the end of the year of the Government's interest-free loan scheme for small businesses.
The congress started yesterday and Labour's election campaign slogan was unveiled: "Let's keep moving."
Ardern took the stage at Te Papa today to the cheers of more than 500 Labour Party members, and mapped out Labour's term in Government so far and its economic recovery plan.
"I can't think of a time in our recent history when we have been collectively challenged by such a cruel combination of events – a terrorist attack, a volcanic eruption, a global pandemic and now its ensuing financial crisis," she said.
Five principles underpinned the economic recovery: people, jobs, preparing for the future, supporting small businesses and job creators, and positioning New Zealand globally.
The environment package aims to create 500 jobs in its first year, and includes 22 projects that were selected for, among other things, "immediate job creation".
They span the country and include land restoration, riparian fencing, pest control, flood protection and new plans for farms, as well as a conservation cadets programme in the Bay of Plenty to engage the unemployed or under-employed.
They came from a list of more than 300 projects, submitted by regional councils, and were chosen by a panel from the Ministry for the Environment, Department of Conservation and Ministry for Primary Industries.
The money was allocated in Budget 2020.
$100m for Kaipara Harbour
The Kaipara Harbour clean-up is in addition to the other 22 projects.
Last year, Ardern and Environment Minister David Parker announced $12m for fencing and riparian planting along Kaipara estuaries, but today that has been turbo-boosted to $100m.
It is New Zealand's largest estuarine ecosystem but its rare ecosystems, which are a habitat for white sharks and snapper as well as orca and critically endangered fairy tern - are increasingly clogged with sediment and mangroves.
The projects were also about marketing New Zealand's clean, green image to attract trade and, when borders reopen, tourism, Ardern said.
"These are projects that are ready to go and have the support of local councils and iwi.
"They will help restore our environmental reputation to what we know it should be, a reputation that underpins so much of our tourism, our trade, our brand.
"They're helping pay down the environmental debt that would otherwise be paid by the next generation."
Ardern said the IMF was predicting the global economy to decline by 4.9 per cent this year, and the Government's small business loan scheme, which is interest-free if full prepaid within a year, had been a "lifeline".
So far, 90,485 small businesses had applied for more than $1.5 billion of loans from the Government since May 12. The average value of each loan is $16,700.
It was meant to finish on July 24, but Ardern said banks had not stepped in to fill that hole so it would be extended until the end of the year.
New Zealand in a global world
Ardern said trade would continue to be a focus as the borders opened up.
"Our position on the world stage will continue to be linked to the ability to come here. To be part of the culture of Aotearoa, to experience this place, our environment and our manaakitanga.
She noted the work on the transtasman bubble and talks with Pacific nations.
"We have a framework in place that will help Cabinet made a decision on when quarantine-free travel with these parts of the world should resume."
National Party leader Todd Muller has pushed the Government to be clearer about the criteria for easing the borders before a vaccine is available.
Ardern has previously said opening borders in the medium-term depended on factors including the turnaround time for tests, how rampant Covid-19 is, the ability to treat a large number of people and whether there is a vaccine available.
"But right now it does mean it would be dangerous if we simply opened up our borders and relied on things like contact-tracing," Ardern said last week.
Today, she said the immediate response to Covid concentrated on protecting people's livelihoods.
"But as we move to recover and rebuild, we must also grow and create jobs, but not just any jobs, but the kind that supports the investment we are making in infrastructure, the environment, and our future.
"There wasn't a playbook for Covid. There wasn't a play book for the recovery. And speaking frankly, there hasn't been one for much of what has happened this term."
Funded projects in today's announcement include:
• Mahurangi East land restoration (55 jobs, $5m)
• Mahurangi River restoration (50 jobs, $4.064m)
• Piako River green corridor (47 jobs, $2.825m)
• Upper Waioumu enhancement (21 jobs, $1.74m)
• Tairawhiti agroecology recovery project (70 jobs, $4.848m)
• Conservation cadets in the Bay of Plenty (170 jobs, $3.5 million)
• Manawatū-Whanganui riparian management (125 jobs,$4.681m)
• Fish passage remediation – Horizons Regional Council (15 jobs, $2.572m)
• Transforming Taranaki riparian management (120 jobs, $5m)
• Lake Horowhenua wetlands (45 jobs, $11.2m)
• Wairarapa Moana Wetlands project (100 jobs, $3.5m)
• Greater Wellington riparian management (50 jobs, $2.5m)
• Waimea Inlet Billion Trees Project – Phase 2 (14 jobs, $1.1m)
• Maitai River riparian management (30 jobs, $1.7m)
• "Action on the ground" projects in Southland (60 jobs, $4.25m)
Kelvin Davis on Covid response
Labour deputy leader Kelvin Davis took the stage earlier and spoke the names of New Zealanders who had died from Covid-19.
"Twenty-two people, mums, dads, grandfathers, grandmothers, best mates and loved ones.
"It's important we remember them. It's important that we say their names."
Davis said New Zealanders had suffered in the Covid crisis.
"But nothing can compare to what Covid-19 took away from those 22 families. Nothing can compare to those New Zealanders who lost a loved one during lockdown who couldn't say goodbye."
Davis took aim at National, whose new leadership team have said they felt a moral obligation to take over and try to win the election.
There was a moral obligation "to look after New Zealanders", including the most vulnerable.
He also took aim at National leader Todd Muller, who described keeping borders closed until a vaccine is ready as "untenable".
Davis said: "The only thing untenable is putting people at risk when you know better."