Development West Coast says the Jobs for Nature programme helped to keep key people in the community when tourism work dried up.
An estimated 170 individuals and 50 businesses were able to remain on the West Coast due to the work opportunities from the government programme.
Destination and Tourism manager Patrick Dault said Jobs for Nature had already made a huge difference.
“It was really pivotal in the survival and the continuity of those communities with tourism – specifically international tourism – representing 90 percent of the town’s sort of GDP.”
It meant some business owners, permanent community members and valuable volunteers, including firefighters, didn’t have to leave, he said.
“The outcome of the Jobs for Nature – in my opinion – really was saving those communities from losing the very pillars that were necessary to keep that community together.”
The programme would also have long-term benefits, but it would remain in place until mid next year, Dault said.
“A lot of tourism businesses have now integrated into their own businesses some of the skills and learnings they have had by being involved or from being involved with Jobs for Nature, and that is putting in place environmental sustainability plans, putting in place conservation plans and pest control.”
Department of Conservation figures showed it has resulted in more than 1000 hectares of weed control and removal, and more than more than 90km of track upgrades and maintenance, planting over 1500 threatened native seedlings and plantlings, repairing and maintaining five regional huts, and more than 26,500 hours of work monitoring and analysing threatened species.
Skydive Franz and Fox Glacier base manager, Robbie Stewart, said it has completely changed the way their team sees the natural environment after working on Jobs for Nature.
“They’re now providing an even more enriching experience to our customers through explaining the unique biodiversity of the area, and their passion is contagious.
“People are not only taking away a life-changing, adrenaline pumping experience, but a lot of new information about the West Coast’s ecology and environment.”
There were also future employment options in light of the work, he said.
“Skydiving can be hard on the body, it’s very physical, and so it isn’t a job you can do forever,” Stewart said.
“The training and experience obtained in the programme has opened-up future career opportunities on the West Coast for our staff when they age-out of the trade.”