Jobs and trees could grow under a bold stimulus plan put forward by more than 70 conservation and land management groups.
Jobs and trees could grow under a bold stimulus plan put forward by more than 70 conservation and land management groups.

Report outlines bold vision for economic stimulus

AGAINST a backdrop of a projected 9 per cent drop in employment in the Coffs Harbour and Grafton region, a bold program outlines a possible path out of the economic mire.

The report examines the economic impacts of a $4 billion national conservation and land management program.

Developed by more than 70 conservation, farming and land management groups, the program aims to create work for the thousands of Australians layed off during the coronavirus pandemic while leaving an enduring benefit for the environment.

The EY report found the program would create 53,000 jobs, reduce welfare costs and raise economic output by $5.7 billion over four years.

That number was estimated to grow to $9.3b by 2040.

In data released alongside the report, it is predicted the Coffs Harbour and Grafton regions will lose up to 9 per cent of their 52,000-strong workforce, something the proponents of the program say can be remedied.

"The analysis found areas hardest hit by COVID-19 across the country were generally those with tourism-dependent economies," said Pepe Clarke, Deputy Director of The Pew Charitable Trusts, one of the co-authors of the program.

"There is strong evidence investment in a national conservation and land management jobs program would deliver timely and targeted economic stimulus as well as long-term economic and environmental benefits for regional communities.

"For regional areas, the ability to provide temporary employment for workers displaced from other industries can reduce the loss of workers to cities and keep young people connected to the workforce during the period of economic downturn."

Investment would be targeted across four strategic areas including bushfire recovery and resilience, tackling noxious weeds and feral animals, supporting improved management of protected areas and restoring rivers, catchments and coastal habitats.

It was also suggested stimulus be delivered through a combination of regional partnerships, direct funding to state conservation agencies and a competitive funding round in early 2021.

The report was also welcomed by leading conservation groups with CEO of the National Landcare Network, Jim Adams, citing several advantages.

"The labour intensive nature of the work, combined with low capital costs, results in a high proportion of investment flowing to the employees and contractors delivering the work and, in turn, to their families and businesses in their local community," he said.

"This hands on conservation and land management work will leave a lasting legacy for the environment, including supporting recovery of landscapes damaged by recent bushfires and drought.

"This program could deliver meaningful gains in agricultural productivity, by reducing costs, improving the condition of soil, water and native vegetation and enhancing resilience to natural disasters."