Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith has dismissed today’s pledge by Labour leader David Cunliffe for additional funding for work to protect New Zealand’s magnificent kauri forests from kauri dieback disease.
"I made plain last month that the Government would be increasing funding in this year’s Budget for controlling kauri dieback. Labour’s pledge now is late and lazy," Dr Smith says.
"Mr Cunliffe’s call today is hypocritical given he sat in the Cabinet room in 2007 and 2008 when the then-Labour Government declined requests by the Auckland Council for funding to control the disease.
"This Government provided funding of $4.7 million in our 2009 Budget for a period of five years, which runs until June this year. In 2013, the kauri dieback programme ’Keep Kauri Standing’ was independently reviewed. Following this review the Minister for Primary Industries and I lodged a Budget bid for new and additional funding last November and last month I confirmed that this additional funding would be forthcoming. The details of this will be announced in Budget 2014 on 15 May.
"It is incorrect for Labour to claim that the recent detection of the disease in the Coromandel’s Whangapoua Forest is attributable to a lack of effort or funding by the Government. Scientific advice is that the disease in this forest was most likely introduced decades ago when the New Zealand Forest Service was involved in planting in this area. This forest would never have been a candidate for boardwalks or additional biosecurity controls as it has no public walkways and has minimal public use.
"Labour has just pulled the $20 million figure out of thin air. National has been working closely with the regional councils, the science community and iwi on a comprehensive package that is fully budgeted, will take effect earlier and which will be more effective.
"Kauri dieback is a serious threat to the treasured remnants of these magnificent forests. I welcome Labour’s belated interest and look forward to their positive support for the Government’s funding package when it is announced in next month’s Budget."