Ecosystem protection fund boost

Environment Southland is now offering up to $300,000 per year for projects that help protect and enhance the region’s remaining native ecosystems.

Councillors at this month’s Strategy and Policy Committee meeting approved changes to the Environmental Enhancement Fund (EEF), which has been in existence since 2012 to support projects that protect and enhance biodiversity.

Previously capped at $40,000 a year, the fund has received a temporary boost to $300,000 a year until July 2025, with support from the Government’s Jobs for Nature programme.

The fund pays half the costs of approved projects, and can be used for such things as pest animal and weed control, fencing, work to restore the natural flow of water, native planting and plant maintenance.

Environment Southland general manager integrated catchment management Paul Hulse welcomed the changes and said the news was fantastic for Southland’s biodiversity and economy.

“Southland is such a special place. We’re home to over 60 native ecosystems, many of which aren’t found anywhere else in New Zealand.

‘‘These areas form the habitat for protected and endangered species and it’s vital that we protect them for future generations.

“With the increase in available funding, we’re hoping to encourage more Southlanders to step up and look after native ecosystems, either on their own land or elsewhere in the region.”

Biodiversity team leader Polly Bulling said the fund was now more accessible than ever, and she hoped many would take the opportunity to apply.

“The majority of funds out there are only open to groups and trusts, but this fund is open to literally anyone who wants to start a project to protect Southland’s native ecosystems.’’

Applications can come from landowners, trusts, individuals and community groups, and people do not need to own any land themselves.

“You can apply for projects anywhere in Southland on private land, conservation land or council land, as long as you have the permission from the relevant landowner.”

She said previously it was possible to use the fund for the creation of new areas, but the focus had shifted to protecting and enhancing what was already there.

Applications can be made at any time of the year. Details are on the council website.

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