Applications for the 2009 Environment Fund – now in its 14th year – can be made right through until April 2010.
Regional Council Environmental Management Committee Chairman Craig Brown says since 1996 the fund has provided more than $2.5 million to help people improve and protect Northland’s natural environment.
Councillor Brown says as proposed, about $500,000 is expected to be available for this year’s fund, which in a change from previous years, can now be applied for – and will be allocated – over a 10-month period.
He says changes to the fund are designed to enable people to apply for worthwhile projects almost year-round, rather than within a previously much smaller 10-week application window.
“In the past people who missed that deadline were effectively forced to wait another 12 months to apply for Environment Fund support or – in some cases – had to secure funding from alternative sources altogether.”
“The new system allows Council to process and approve applications - in particular for seasonal projects like native tree planting and pest control - much closer to the time the assistance is actually required. It makes it more efficient for both applicants and Council staff.”
Kathy Mortimer, the Regional Council’s Environment Fund Coordinator, says to that end, the Council is currently inviting expressions of interest in projects that aim to enhance the environment with native tree planting over the coming winter.
The Environment Fund typically contributes up to 50 percent of the total cost of a project, with most grants for between $500 and $5000. Applicants must be able to provide the remainder of the cost with time, cash, other funding or in-kind contributions such as voluntary labour and donated materials.
Mrs Mortimer says projects must be of long-term benefit to the local environment and show clear evidence of good resource management. Projects designed to generate personal or commercial profit, required under a resource consent, or to simply beautify a site, are not eligible for funding.
The fund is open to individuals and voluntary groups for eligible projects on private land. Landowners, community and conservation organisations, local Maori groups and schools have all successfully applied to the Environment Fund in the past.
Councillor Brown says the largest grant awarded last year was almost $17,000 to continue fencing a large Bay of Islands wetlands system. The smallest grant – just $200 – was destined to control pest animals in the Far North.
Meanwhile, Mrs Mortimer says this year’s fund will once again be split across a number of areas:
• General biodiversity protection
• Wetland protection and enhancement
• Pest animal and plant control
• Revegetation and enhancement with native plants
• Excluding stock from the Coastal Marine Area
• Coast care projects (mainly sand dune stabilisation projects).
Mrs Mortimer says people wanting to check whether their project might qualify for funding should contact Regional Council Land Management staff on (0800) 002 004 as it is important to consult with Council staff before filling in an application form.
“Council staff can assist with applications and will visit project sites to assess whether they meet the criteria,” she says.
Application forms and guidelines are available from all Northland Regional Council offices, by calling (0800) 002 004, sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting Council’s website www.nrc.govt.nz/environmentfund