Regional leaders welcome Provincial Growth Fund announcements

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The Manawatū-Whanganui Region has received a $45 million injection today, with Regional Economic Development Minister, Hon Shane Jones, announcing Government funding towards Foxton environment and visitor amenities, Whanganui Port infrastructure and repairs to lower river training structures, the development of a new wing for the Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui, and talent and skills initiatives to support the region’s labour market.

While in the region, Minister Jones also announced the preferred site for KiwiRail’s distribution hub near Palmerston North.

Horizons Regional Council chief executive, Accelerate25 facilitator and Manawatū-Whanganui Regional Economic Recovery Taskforce chair Michael McCartney says the funding will help support a number of critical projects and issues identified by regional leaders as important for recovery.

Foxton’s Save our River Trust chair and Regional Economic Recovery Taskforce member, Robin Hapi says the $3.86 million Provincial Growth Fund investment towards environment and visitor amenities in Foxton will be used to undertake environmental enhancement to enhance the existing River Loop, build additional facilities, and accelerate planning for the next phases of the project.

“The Foxton Futures project will contribute to improve a range of public spaces and the health of local waterways, making the town a more attractive stopping point and creating employment opportunities in the area,” says Mr Hapi.

“This funding is particularly significant because the completion of the Ōtaki to north of Levin expressway will see Foxton become the first town north of Wellington that travellers on State Highway 1 can stop and visit.

“This project will also have a positive environmental impact, as the area is home to the Manawatū Estuary which will benefit from a healthier awa.”

Whanganui has received $28.6 million, the bulk of which will be used to progress Te Puwaha – Whanganui Port revitalisation.

Whanganui mayor, Te Puwaha governance group member, and Regional Economic Recovery Taskforce member Hamish McDouall says the $12.5 million Provincial Growth Fund investment Whanganui District Council has received will be put towards infrastructure requirements currently needed for port users.

“This infrastructure includes work on Wharf 1, Wharf 2 and Wharf 3, boat launch infrastructure, dredging tools, building repairs and demolition of derelict structures,” says Mayor McDouall.

“The infrastructure will not only support current marine services and freight services, but encourage potential tenants in similar industries as well as encouraging investment from the seafood harvesting and processing sectors.

“Te Puwaha as a whole will consider the health and wellbeing of the awa, while providing a place for commerce, education and recreation to come together to enhance economic vitality.”

Horizons Regional Council chair and Te Puwaha governance group member Rachel Keedwell says a critical element in Whanganui Port’s success is its protection from a river prone to flooding.

“The $7.5 million Provincial Growth Fund support Horizons received today will go towards the $15 million needed to undertake repairs to the north and south moles at the river mouth, and other river training structures along the lower reach of the river,” says Cr Keedwell.

“These structures control the alignment of the lower reach of the Whanganui River, protecting all the adjoining industrial and residential development and some critical components of the city’s infrastructure, as well as providing marine access from the sea to the port.”

Ngā Tāngata Tiaki o Whanganui Trust chair and Te Puwaha governance group member Gerrard Albert says Te Puwaha merges two local government revitalisation projects and a private relocation project, governed by Tupua Te Kawa values.

“Whanganui iwi are excited to implement a true community approach, one that will ensure that the Tupua te Kawa, the Whanganui River’s innate value set, is upheld in line with the awa’s unique legal status,” says Mr Albert.

A Te Awa Tupua approach supports greater inclusivity of the community when it comes to decision making for the river, working alongside hapū and iwi under common values.

The community will be guiding how the work gets down through a much more inclusive governance and operational model. All contractors and operators working within Te Puwaha Project will be bound by Tupua te Kawa values.”

Mayor McDouall says a further $5.55 million Provincial Growth Fund support will go to Q-West Boat Builders to establish a purpose-built facility and 300 tonne vessel hoist for new builds, repairs, and maintenance services within the Port.

“In addition to employing 30 staff the new facility will create an estimated 80 additional jobs with neighbouring businesses,” says Mayor McDouall.

“The Port Employment Precinct also received $1.5 million from the Provincial Growth Fund’s Te Ara Mahi allocation to help connect local people with jobs created by the Port redevelopment and facilitate on-the-job and classroom-based training.

“Today’s PGF funding is a significant investment that will support the redevelopment of the Whanganui Port, a project governed through a community partnership including iwi, local and regional councils.

“The revitalisation will create numerous jobs for local people, uphold the wellbeing of Te Awa Tupua, protect key infrastructure, and ensure a viable future for local assets.

“Te Puwaha has been a regional priority for Accelerate 25 and Te Pae Tawhiti, as identified in the Manawatū-Whanganui Economic Action Plan. The project’s significance has been highlighted post COVID-19 as an important driver for regional recovery and as such it is also recognised as a priority by the Regional Economic Recovery Taskforce.

“It is brilliant to see this investment being made and the project being accelerated at pace.

“We also welcome the $12 million Government investment for the development of the Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui.”

This funding forms part of the $3 billion infrastructure fund established in response to COVID-19, which was announced by the Government on 1 July.

Regional Economic Recovery Taskforce member, Accelerate25 lead team member, and Regional Skills Leadership Group chair Ruma Karaitiana says today’s announcement of $2.4 million towards three Te Ara Mahi programmes to support jobseekers and employees to quickly train and upskill is pleasing.

“Skills and talent is an Accelerate25 enabler and also recognised as a priority by the Regional Economic Recovery Taskforce,” says Mr Karaitiana.

“Te Rūnanga o Ngā Wairiki Ngāti Apa Education training and employment initiatives have received $846,000, the Tararua Economic Action Plan employment advisors have received $574,000, and the Central Regional Major Skills Hub has received $1 million from the Provincial Growth Fund.

“These three PGF-funded programmes have the potential to significantly boost the financial wellbeing of Manawatū-Whanganui locals, with up to 154 local people supported into employment within the first year.

“This investment will enable the growth of skilled workers in key sectors such as horticulture, forestry, apiculture, health and social services, agriculture and civil infrastructure – laying the groundwork for ongoing workforce planning and training in the region.”

Palmerston North mayor Grant Smith says that in addition to the projects and programmes funded today, it was great to have Minister Jones announce the preferred site for KiwiRail’s distribution hub which has previously received PGF funding and is an identified priority in both the Accelerate25 and Regional Economic Recovery Taskforce’s programmes.

“The 2.5 kilometre long inter-modal freight hub between Palmerston North Airport and Bunnythorpe is designed to enable trains and heavy trucks to work efficiently together, while helping to get trucks out of already congested parts of Palmerston North city,” says Mayor Smith.

“The Hub aligns well to the regional leaders’ focus on transport and logistics, and providing faster and safer connections throughout the Central North Island. This will enable more efficient movement of freight to ports such as Whanganui, Napier, Wellington, Taranaki, and Tauranga.

“Our region is working hard on ensuring the impact of COVID-19 isn’t long lasting. We already had strong collaboration in place, with councils, iwi, and business working together though initiatives such as Accelerate25.

“Many of the projects and initiatives funded today were already planned or underway. Central government funding is important in ensuring that we can get them moving more quickly. This in turn, provides economic stability and creates jobs to help our region not just survive and revive, but thrive.”