Media release

ORC’s ECO Fund 3X oversubscribed again

Monday 6 May 2024

Applications for Otago Regional Council’s annual ECO Fund has been three times oversubscribed again, with 33 of this year’s 65 applicants having now made it to a recommended list.

Of an approximate total $918,000 available this year – from the combined ECO Fund and Incentives Funding Programmes –65 applicants were seeking a combined $2.7 million for environmental projects around Otago.

ORC’s Principal Advisor Environmental Implementation, Anna Molloy, says the funding supports community driven projects, which will protect, enhance and promote Otago’s environment.

“The oversubscription for funds again this year reflects increasing community awareness and people keen to help protect our environment. The increase also likely reflects the ending of Government’s Jobs for Nature funding which has supported many groups for several years.”

“There was a wealth of very good applications. Every year we wish we were able to fund more applicants,” she says.

As usual, the applications cover a wide variety of topics, from pest plant and animal control, native species protection and habitat restoration, native revegetation and regeneration and wilding conifer removal.

“The applications focus on environmental enhancement, often looking to halt some form of degradation and restore the natural biodiversity and ecology in places which are important to communities,” Ms Molloy says.

The Assessment Panel’s recommendation to Council to fund 33 projects– which met the eligibility criteria – means a total $854,733 can be disseminated to community groups and individuals where it relates to biodiversity enhancement on protected private land.

Within all the funding there was a new one-off large scale biodiversity Incentive Fund of $300,000, which attracted 10 applications seeking a total $1.27 million. Three applicants have been recommended, for a total of $300,000.

In addition, Terrestrial Site-Led Programme funding will also be recommended to Council.

There were five organisations with a total nine projects recommended to receive $146,200. The projects are located at high value biodiversity sites on the Otago Peninsula and the West Harbour/Mt Cargill area – Site-Led areas under the Otago Regional Pest Management Plan 2019-2029. Council will also decide on this funding on 22 May.

Recommendations for consideration:

ECO Fund – 10 project recommendations totalling $314,454. Projects include in Dunedin, Central Otago, North Otago, and Upper Lakes.

Incentives Funding – sustained rabbit management, six projects totalling $100,000. Projects include Dunedin, Wanaka, South Otago, and wider Central Otago.

Incentives Funding – native planting after plant pest removal, four projects totalling $35,171. Projects include in Oamaru, Hāwea, and Central Otago.

Incentives Funding – native plant for water quality, two project recommendations for $11,675. Projects are in North Otago and Wanaka.

Incentives Funding – biodiversity enhancement on protected private land, eight project recommendations totalling $93,433. Projects include in Queenstown, Wanaka, Dunedin and coastal Otago.

Large-scale biodiversity – three project recommendations totalling $300,000. Projects include Upper Lakes, Dunedin and Catlins.

The process

ECO Fund applications were open for a month until 2 April. A four member staff panel then reviewed eligibility and scored the applications before the Assessment Panel undertook their review and scoring. This panel which was made up of three ORC Councillors and one mana whenua representative, met on 22 April, and provided the final 33 shortlisted applicants. Following a report to the Environmental Implementation Committee on 8 May, that Committee will make recommendations to a full Council meeting on 22 May, to be voted on by Councillors.

Successful applicants will then be notified, and an announcement made; which will outline each project’s objectives and the amount of funding secured.

The ECO Fund and Incentives Funding programmes will be reviewed later this year, to ensure it is fit-for-purpose and aligns with the objectives of the Long-Term Plan 2024-34.

To date, $1.7 million distributed since 2018

Over the past nine rounds of ECO Fund since mid-2018, a total $4.87 million was applied for, with a total 133 applicants (from 286) successful, with a total $1.73 million distributed.

On average, each of the nine rounds was oversubscribed by 300%.

Incentives Funding, which is ring-fenced, was underspent by about $59,700 and the Assessment Panel has recommended it be returned to the budget for the next funding round.