Farming and conservation groups call for $4b post-pandemic jobs boost

A coalition of more than 80 landcare, environmental, farming and conservation groups has written to state and federal governments proposing the creation of 24,000 jobs in land rehabilitation as part of a post-pandemic stimulus package.

Under the proposal, landscapes and infrastructure damaged by the recent drought and bushfires would be rehabilitated in part by people who had lost jobs as a result of the coronavirus.

New growth on bushfire-impacted trees along the Princes Highway near Batemans Bay.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

The jobs package would cost $4 billion over four years, according to the proposal that has been endorsed by groups including the National Farmers Federation, the NSW Farmers Federation and the Nature Conservation Council, or about 1000 full-time jobs for each $100 million spent.

"During the period of economic recovery there is scope for tens of thousands of unskilled and semi-skilled workers to be employed by the government in the conservation and land management sector," said the letter to the Prime Minister and premiers on Thursday.

The letter said the jobs would be in the areas of weed and pest control, river and catchment restoration and the repair of habitat and infrastructure damaged by fire.

The program would provide income and certainty for bulldozer and machine operators, fencers, shooting and trapping contractors, nursery growers and hardware suppliers, as well as local and Indigenous land managers.

The program would also include funding for private land conservation by farmers and other land managers, tree-planting programs in urban and rural areas, coastal habitat restoration in partnership with communities and the fishing industry and marine plastics clean-up projects.

"If funding is committed, then the lockdown period is an opportunity to develop projects, seek partners and allow people to apply for positions so that the program can hit the ground running," says the letter, which was organised by Pew Charitable Trusts, a non-government organisation with an environmental focus.

"We would welcome the opportunity to work with government in designing this program."

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