Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 1—Conservation
MARK CAMERON (ACT): Before I start, on behalf of the ACT Party, it is great to see the member Kiritapu Allan back in the House, and we, as the ACT Party, wish her all the very best.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: The usual way is to either seek leave or take a point of order, but the member needs to now come to the question.
1. MARK CAMERON (ACT) to the Minister of Conservation: Is she confident that the $1.1 billion nature-based jobs funding will deliver 11,000 jobs?
Hon KIRITAPU ALLAN (Minister of Conservation): For the components that I am responsible for, yes.
Mark Cameron: What is the total number of fulltime-equivalents currently employed as a result of the $1.1 billion Jobs for Nature programme?
Hon KIRITAPU ALLAN: I thank the member for his question. As he may be aware, the Jobs for Nature programme is comprised of a number of departments of which I have responsibility for the Department of Conservation (DOC) component. That component comprises $501 million of the total pool, to which the July 2020 undertaking was to create 4,800 jobs. To date, in the year that that programme has been announced, we are making fantastic progress with over 1,084 people strapping their boots on up and down this country to be employed, to date, in DOC projects.
Hon Jacqui Dean: Does the Minister think it is acceptable that according to the Government’s own publicly released figures, it is costing the taxpayer $820.60 for every hour of work produced by the Jobs for Nature initiative?
Hon KIRITAPU ALLAN: I thank the member for her question and the research she’s undertaken to get to that point, but what I will note is that this is a significant project of which the evolution and the genesis of this project was undertaken when our country was in an economic crisis as a consequence of COVID. When the programme was established, Treasury was forecasting that jobs would be at a point of 10 percent unemployment by November. So what we had to do, and what our Government did do, was essentially take a department like the Department of Conservation and require it to quickly pivot to form relationships at ground, in place, across the region to get this project into the place where we are today, where we are on track to meet our objectives of getting 4,800 people into jobs over the four years.
Hon Jacqui Dean: Point of order. Mr Speaker, my question was very clear and succinct: does the Minister think it is acceptable that, according to her Government’s own figures, it is costing the taxpayer $820.60 for every hour of work? The Minister told us many things but did not address the question.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: I think the overall context of the answer, though, addressed the very question.
Hon Jacqui Dean: Point of order. I seek leave to table a document “Progress of creating jobs: progress on allocated funding” and a spreadsheet, which lays out how the figure of $820.60 cost per hour of each job—
DEPUTY SPEAKER: And the origin and source of that document?
Hon Jacqui Dean: Yes, these are the Government’s own figures and this is my own work.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Is it publicly available already?
Hon Jacqui Dean: This is now. [Holding up documents] These are.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Yeah, it’s not in order to present documents that members have created themselves.
Mark Cameron: Why is the Government not recording the cost per fulltime-equivalent job of the Jobs for Nature programme, according to the response to returned question 24742(2021)?
Hon KIRITAPU ALLAN: The cost per job is—there are many factors that go into the cost, in the raw figures that the member’s referring to. There are capital costs that we lay over. There’s the nature of the role. So all of those costs are taken into consideration when we provide the raw figure of cost per job, of which we are providing—and it is on record.
Mark Cameron: Does the Minister think that 10 projects currently on the Jobs for Nature website, which employ 192 people at a cost of $443,000 per job, is a prudent use of taxpayer money?
Hon KIRITAPU ALLAN: I am not sure where the member has got that $4,033—
Mark Cameron: $433,000.
Hon KIRITAPU ALLAN: $433,000 per job, but what I can say is that we have, to date, made incredible progress by establishing, by getting people up and down this country into over a thousand jobs. The cost for those jobs will vary. We have had, of course, the upfront implementation costs that you’d expect with any brand new project, but, to date, we are satisfied that this project is going to be cost-effective and meet the targets that we have projected to date.
Tāmati Coffey: How is the Department of Conservation’s Jobs for Nature investment helping tourism operators impacted by COVID-19?
Hon KIRITAPU ALLAN: This is an excellent question from the member, and particularly in his patch, where tourism—and particularly in places like Rotorua, Queenstown, where we had significant upheaval in labour workforce during that period of time that COVID has disrupted those industries. It means that tourism operators—alongside our decision to extend the concession fee waivers out for another six months, that we are, I guess, supporting those operators to ongo their activities. Predator Free South Westland, which we announced in March, is an ambitious project that aims to restore nature and sustain jobs in COVID areas. It is the biggest step yet on mainland Aotearoa towards our Predator Free 2050 goal.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: I think the member’s addressed it.
Rachel Brooking: How does Jobs for Nature deliver skills and training benefits?
Hon KIRITAPU ALLAN: Great question from the member. Look, training and upskilling is a significant component to our Jobs for Nature project. Essentially, every person that comes into a Jobs for Nature programme, we expect that they will come out more upskilled than they came in. Training and capability development is enhancing the future of the workforce, and the types of skills required will vary from project to project. Many workers will gain practical skills, conservation skills, such as out there on-the-job vegetation weed control, it might be chainsaw licences, Growsafe certification, or what is specific to that project. So we are very proud of the work that is occurring up and down this country to upskill New Zealanders to make sure that they are committed to be our next generation of conservation warriors.