The Pest Control Jobs’ Budget Lacks Sustainability Vision

Opinion by Michelle Terry
“$1.1 billion for nature jobs”? Was this a first draft budget presented to NZ as the final version?
Using the word Nature to describe pesticide and herbicide use is stretching the truth to the point of breaking it. 
Finance Minister Grant Robertson says of the jobs being created that “there will be helicopters and hotel rooms” for this green and poisoned land. (Actually, he called it ‘green and pleasant’.) 
People wanted a helicopter payment for those in acute need. Not helicopters spreading more poison. Poisons challenge and can overwhelm our immune systems and people working or living with poisons in their environment will be more at risk. There is no innovation in this budget. It is just more of the same. The creation of jobs on the wrong side of the war against Nature is in opposition to improving our environment and helping Nature. 
So, what’s in it? $27.5 million has been allocated to “control wallabies” and suddenly the government is talking wallabies instead of the usual suspects, namely possums, rats and stoats. Why? 
Is it because the East Coast of the South Island is relatively unmolested by poisons, compared to the rest of New Zealand and this is an opportunity to widen the coverage?
What about creating jobs for the multi-billion dollar pet food industry and wild-sourced, non-allergenic meat for the Asian export market – instead of wasting resources and contaminating our environment?
New Zealand does not have a dedicated pesticide risk reduction programme. Alone (as we are on so many issues) among the OECD countries, we don’t even have a policy of pesticides reduction. In fact, we are going in the opposite direction. 
We have made little progress in the elimination of undesirable pesticides and this latest unfeasibly huge injection of cash into ‘pest control’ can only mean more poison for NZ. We consistently ignore the contamination of our water supplies with pest control poisons and use outdated testing methodologies. To continue labouring under such ignorance of the inevitable harm these chemicals present is unsustainable for our environment and dangerous for public health. 
The impact of these pesticides applied over huge landscapes to destroy animals is undeniably inhumane. These poisons (in particular the chemical toxins 1080 and brodifacoum) being aerially-applied to our wild spaces, our forestry, islands and agricultural land are an issue that is crying out to be addressed in parliament. Dr Jane Goodall, in fact, urged us to address this issue during her visit to NZ last year. 
Gravy Train
But this is a $1.1 billion poison gravy train!
Animal toxins as a means of reducing numbers of non-native wildlife lack vision as a truly sustainable clean green 100% Pure New Zealand according to the Soil & Health Association of New Zealand.
Promotion of 1080 used for pest control, whether for conservation or agriculture, uses incomplete science and research reports. What we need instead of money for poisons and a war on wildlife is funding for implementing more humane and more sustainable alternatives. Alternatives such as using potential resources like wallabies and wilding pines, instead of continuing to financially prop-up the world’s chemical poison cartels whilst simultaneously increasing NZ’s debts.
The Chance for Clean Green Reset in the New Normal is Being Ignored.
Continuing to promote dirty toxins and inhumane killing as part of some kind of conservation movement is likely to further divide the community. The big bucks up for grabs will further entrench shallow science as adequate and instead of using this opportunity as a ‘Reset’ for the environment we appear set to keep New Zealand’s chance of an authentically Clean Green 100% Pure trading advantage as a shimmering mirage in the distance.
True Cost Ignored
Toxins are a cheap way to annihilate perceived ‘problem plants and animals’, but the true cost to the environment and our trading image is still being ignored as pointed out a decade ago by Soil & Health spokesperson, Steffan Browning. 
What we needed from the budget was funding for genuinely clean alternatives and such innovation should be seen as a valuable investment rather than throwing money at the same old unhealthy patterns of behaviour. Alternatives to broad-scale toxin use and alternative ways of approaching Nature and achieving our biodiversity goals can and will be found.
In 2010, Soil & Health had a vision of an Organic 2020 where biodiversity and agricultural pest control measures are the most humane available and do not rely on the broad-scale use of toxins. We dread to think what the latest lolly scramble for poison dollars will mean for New Zealand.
© Environmentally damaging and throwing money away by ignoring resource values
Photo credit:  The Bulwark. The Coming Coronavirus Recession Calls for “Helicopter Money” March 27, 2020

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