Mana Taiao.

By Jenny Ritchie, Te Herenga Waka | Victoria University of Wellington

The Budget signals the coalition government’s disregard for its role in overseeing the wellbeing of the environment, fundamentally ignoring the climate and biodiversity crisis facing Aotearoa New Zealand and imperiling long-term intergenerational wellbeing and equity for short-term political advantage.

The range of substantial funding cuts includes those to the emergency response funding for the Climate Change Commission, as well as to the staffing and programmes of the Ministry of the Environment and Ministry of Primary Industry that operate in service of protecting our environment. This demonstrates an “ambulance at the bottom of the cliff” approach to the climate crisis.

As educators we are hugely concerned at the clear abnegation of responsibility to educate communities to reduce risks and prepare for climate emergencies.

We are concerned that this Budget breaches obligations to Māori in terms of Te Tiriti o Waitangi Article Two protections to whenua and taonga, including our unique but severely endangered biodiversity.

Specific examples of this are the cuts to funding of the Hāpori Māori programme which aimed to support and educate Māori communities about climate change, adaptation, and resilience, and the Jobs for Nature programme, which offered employment opportunities in service of biodiversity wellbeing.

Last year, Cyclone Gabrielle, immediately following Cyclone Hale, severely impacted many Māori communities. This demonstrated the urgent need to prioritise such programmes.

Further educational programmes that operate in the climate resilience space include Toimata Foundation’s Te Ahu Tū Roa and Enviroschools programmes, as did the now ended National Science Challenge research fund, including, in particular, the Deep South projects.

We call for reinstatement of funding for the latter and increased funding to the Toimata Foundation.

The Budget makes no mention of the urgent need for the development of specific programmes for schools and communities to deliver climate education which is required by the Urutau, Ka Taurikura national climate adaptation plan.

Tertiary education is essential for equipping people with the knowledge, critical thinking skills, understanding of research and science, and ethical frameworks that empower them to play a role in climate mitigation and adaptation. The tertiary education sector is also fundamental to supporting our research, science, innovation, and technology system.

If tertiary education is to fulfil its role in addressing climate change, proper funding and support from the government is crucial. Unfortunately, Budget 2024 does not deliver on this, along with numerous other matters.