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Wednesday, December 16

Minister’s callous flip-flop on key environment fund


The Government has pulled the plug on a highly-successful environmental fund despite previously promoting the fund as part of the solution to New Zealand’s freshwater crisis and increasing the fund's Budget allocation this year.


“The Sustainable Management Fund is a winner – it was five-times oversubscribed last year,” said Green Party environment spokesperson David 
Clendon. 


“I’ve seen first-hand projects of immense benefit to New Zealand.


“The decision to pull the plug on the Sustainable Management Fund is environmentally and economically short-sighted.


“Grants go to practical projects, allowing people from all over the country to help clean-up and restore our beautiful country.


“It’s excellent value for money. The modest Government grants are supplemented by countless volunteer hours of Kiwis doing their bit for the environment.”


In June, the Minister for the Environment, Dr Nick Smith, said in his announcement of freshwater reform: “We will continue to encourage these [non-Government] initiatives through the Sustainable Management Fund, MAF’s Sustainable Farming Fund, and existing research funds, to name just some of the support mechanisms Government currently has in place.”


Mr Clendon said, “The Minister has gone back on his word. He has pre-empted his own review into his Ministry’s funds and killed a golden goose. It’s callous.”
Earlier in the year the Minister announced a strategic review of all environmental funds. The Ministry’s website notes “at this stage it is too early to advise what the expected outcomes of the review may be”.


Mr Clendon said, “The Minister has attempted to quietly bury the decision via ‘Questions and Answers’ on his Ministry’s website, saying that the fund has diverted into ‘some large nationally significant projects’, without disclosing what these projects are. It’s not good enough – Dr Smith has presented no evidence of better value for money.


“There are large environmental projects that need urgent funding – like reducing our emissions or cleaning up polluted waterways and contaminated sites – but robbing thousands of Peters to pay Paul is simply short-changing both our environment and the economy.”


The 2009 Budget included the Sustainable Management Fund among initiatives aimed at building “A Stronger Economy: Better living conditions and a stronger society for New Zealanders”.


The Sustainable Management Fund aims to support a wide range of practical environmental initiatives and involve the community in practically focused ‘action for the environment’. It can benefit community groups, business, iwi and local government.


Recent grants have gone to electronic waste recycling events (eDay); dune, wetland and stream restoration; saving kiwi; and business sustainability.


The Fund is “heavily oversubscribed”. In the 2009 Budget, the Government increased the fund to $3.844 million for the 2009/10 financial year and ongoing. The Minister has noted that “the fund had received applications totalling $21 million for $3.84m available”.