MEDIA RELEASE: Big hearted grants program to be slashed

29 May 2014

The State Government must keep a vital community volunteer grants program that has helped thousands of South Australians look after nature.

“This is a tiny grants program with a big heart, and an even bigger impact on the thousands of South Australians who generously volunteer to look after the natural spaces in their neighbourhoods, towns and regional areas,” said Conservation Council SA Chief Executive Craig Wilkins.

“With the Federal Government turning its back on the environment, and the State Government slashing and burning the Environment Department, volunteers are being increasingly left to pick up the pieces.

“Yet volunteers working in public spaces on behalf of their community can’t work in a vacuum. They need training, equipment and other support to do their jobs safely and well. That’s why the Natural Resource Management Community Grants Program is so important.

The grant program was established in 2008 by the then Environment Minister Jay Weatherill in response to widespread community demand.

The amount has reduced from $2.5million in 2009-10, to $2.0 million the following three years and only $1.5million for 2013-14. This year’s round has not been rolled out as expected. The highly popular funding has supported 745 projects across South Australia. The investment of volunteer hours and other in-kind contributions is far greater than the funding itself.

“Volunteers all over the state work incredibly hard for free. Who is going to look after their local patch if they don’t? This funding is a cheap, effective way to help them do what they do best.

“The value for both the State Government in not having to employ staff or contractors, and for the community in having a healthy local environment, far outweighs the tiny cost of this grants program. It is far more affordable to preserve nature than try and fix it later.

“This is not just a bit of Saturday afternoon hand weeding. The grants are used for large-scale removal of invasive species, mass native plantings, controlling feral animals, building tracks and fencing, creating education materials, and for training and expert consultants.

One children’s centre in Adelaide used it to clean up an industrial contamination site and convert it into native plant and food producing gardens.

“Without this grants program continuing, there is no money for these groups. They can’t do this all this priceless work with just their bare hands.

“Premier Jay Weatherill knows how important this program is: he started it when he was the Environment Minister in 2008. We are calling on him now to step in and make sure the State Government keeps supporting hard working volunteers,” Mr Wilkins said.

Release Ends

Media contact: Meg Sobey on 0411 028 930

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