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Greens win $100 million for environment and community

Almost $100 million has been secured by the Green Party in the 2008 budget, comprising their largest budget package ever.

Among the Green Party initiatives is a guaranteed $10.26 million over four years for the Community Organisations Grant Scheme to provide essential financial support to non-profit voluntary and community organisations. COGS has been chronically underfunded since its inception. The Green Party looks forward to hard pressed organisations all over New Zealand finding survival that much easier as a result of this funding boost.

The Community Internship Programme (CIP), a Green Party initiative, assists community organisations by sharing ideas, knowledge and experience between groups and sectors. Under a new allocation CIP's annual budget will almost double, with an extra $313,000 every year, for the next four years. This extra funding will provide for 10 additional internships.

"The Green Party initiatives target the much-neglected community sector, that vital third sector of the economy where civil society organises in non-for-profit organisations to work for the common good. It promotes better health not by waiting till people are sick then treating them, but by keeping them healthy by preventing illness from cold damp housing, antibiotic resistant infections and contaminated food. It promotes democracy, by opening up the decision making process to ordinary people outside of politics and parliament. And it links key Green concerns about climate change and biodiversity conservation," Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says.

Other big winners are $800,000 additional funding for environment centres, $1 million for refugee assistance and a Citizen's Forum to consider funding of elections and political parties with $4.3 million.

"However, the Government has ignored the 61 percent of New Zealanders who just last month said they would rather not have tax cuts if it meant cuts to social spending like health, benefits and education.

"This Budget is yet again short-sighted. It all but ignores the environment, does little to prepare New Zealanders for the end of cheap oil, ignores the needs of students and fails to tackle some of the biggest issues that we as a nation are facing," Ms Fitzsimons says.

Green Budget initiatives 2008

Energy Efficient Warm Homes

A total of $53.4 million over five years has been secured for a variety of renovations to make State houses warmer, drier and more energy efficient. In addition to insulating the remaining 21,000 uninsulated houses, the package includes draft-proofing windows and doors, wraps for hot water cylinders, efficient shower heads, lagging of pipes and, if appropriate, new energy efficient home heating. The funding will double the current rate of progress on the insulation scheme and ensure that within five years no state house tenant will live in a cold damp home.

Community Organisation Grants Scheme

$10.26 million over four years will provide essential financial support to non-profit voluntary and community based organisations through the Community Organisation Grants Scheme, New Zealand's most devolved funding scheme. Every year funding is allocated to over 3,000 community groups by committees of local volunteers, based on their knowledge of their own community. This money ensures the survival of a wide range of groups from the very small to the more recognised. The additional money will help thousands of groups better offset the ever increasing costs they have faced since COGS was established in 1986. The funding increase represents a 20percent per annum increase to the fund.

Citizen's Jury to consider state Funding of Elections and Political Parties

$4.324 million will fund a Citizen's Jury to work with a government Expert Panel which will review and report to the Minister of Justice on the structure of electoral agencies and the funding of elections and political parties. The Citizen's Jury will consider options on state funding of elections and political parties as proposed by the Expert Panel. This is a one-off 12-month initiative originally announced in December 2007.

Climate Change Research

$8 million over four years will support five major research projects on climate change on conservation land. The projects range from climate change implications for threatened species and threatened environments including the impact on freshwater resources and species adaptation.

National Community Biodiversity Fund

$4 million, over two years, will go to the new National Community Biodiversity Fund to support restoration projects that protect indigenous biodiversity on public land, including Maori land, dunelands and waterways. This will complement the existing Biodiversity Condition and Advice Fund of $3.5 million a year that funds projects on private land.

National Antibiotic Surveillance System

$4 million funding over four years will establish a comprehensive antibiotic resistant surveillance system in New Zealand. The new system will be administered by the Ministry of Health, with the assistance of the New Zealand Food Safety Authority which will help to enhance services and improve the surveillance and control of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

The new surveillance system is likely to include

•Surveillance of antibiotics used in the community and/or hospital setting

•Additional testing by national laboratory services of the Environmental Science and Research (ESR)

•A contestable pool for research projects

•Working with New Zealand Food Safety Authority on surveillance and monitoring of antimicrobial use and resistance in food producing animals.

Food Safety Testing: Random testing of imported foods

Funding of $2.4 million over four years will improve the monitoring and testing of foods that are imported into New Zealand. At present only foods that are categorised as being high risk are tested by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority. The new funding will enable the authority to extend its monitoring and testing regime to imported foods other than those considered high risk and allow for random testing. The enhanced regime will include a new system which will use complaints, recalls, new research, health scares or border rejections – to alert NZFSA to foods that may warrant closer inspection.

Private Members Bills and Associated Work Programme

Two important private members bills from the Green Party were passed in the last eight months: Sue Kedgley's Flexible Working Arrangements Bill and Sue Bradford's Minimum Wage (New Entrants) Bill. The Implementation of Private Members' Bills and associated work programme gives $2.38 million over the next three years to assist employees and employers in understanding their new rights and obligations according to these new acts. This allocation will fund information kits, digital resources, the development of case studies, and advertising.

Community Internship Programme

The Community Internship Programme (CIP), a Green Party initiative, is designed to assist community organisations by sharing ideas, knowledge and experience between organisations and sectors. Currently, there are nine six month internships funded annually. Under this new allocation CIP's annual budget will almost double, with an extra $313,000 every year, for the next four years. This extra funding will provide for 10 additional internships, as well as allowing for greater flexibility of salary where this is necessary to attract appropriate skill sets.

Environment Centre Fund

A further $800,000 over four years has been secured to support the general running costs of Environment Centres. An environment centre's role is to inform, advise and engage the community on environmental issues. The centres' key roles are to: Motivate and inform existing and new environmentally-focussed groups; provide information and education to the community and act as a focus and meeting place for community action on environmental issues. Environment Centres first received government funding in an initiative from the Green Party in the 2000/01 Budget.

Refugee and Migrant Services programme and the Refugee Re-establishment Grant

Two initiatives with total value $1 million will support refugees and the services that assist refugees. The Refugee and Migrant Service Refugee Resettlement programme gets a $600,000 budget boost ($150,000 a year over four years) for delivering vital services to refugees and migrants.

In addition money will also go to assisting refugee families – who have often come from overseas refugee camps to start a new life in New Zealand.

Peacemaking Feasibility Study

$200,000 for a Peacemaking Feasibility Study to will look at how New Zealand can expand its our role in resolving conflicts in the world, and assisting in post conflict situations. It would also take account of the experience of other small countries, like Norway in the Middle East and Sri Lanka, in helping prevent conflicts, getting negotiations going in conflict situations, working out ceasefire arrangements and helping with reconciliation.

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