West Coast secures $3M stimulus package

(file)
(file)

A $3 million stimulus fund has been launched to support business development along the West Coast of the South Island, following major uncertainty from several big employers.

The fund has been offered by charitable trust Development West Coast (DWC), and will provide a $1 million booster to each of the district councils – Buller, Grey and Westland – with the specific purpose of improving business development.

It may be used to get ultra-fast broadband in the area sooner but must focus on business and cannot be used for community assets.

DWC chair John Sturgeon says the trust has recognised local businesses are hurting.

"This fund will support initiatives to help businesses grow and can also be used by councils to leverage additional funding from central Government and other funding sources."

Job opportunities are drying up in the region because of serious uncertainty at local mines, with state-owned operator Solid Energy going into voluntary administration yesterday and announcing its most profitable assets will probably sold.

The company employs around 750 workers and contractors, many of whom are on the coast, and the income has traditionally supported many other small businesses and jobs.

Holcim cement factory is also due to pull out of the region next year and will drop 200 jobs, and unions fear KiwiRail may eventually restrict its TranzAlpine passenger service and shed as many as 150 jobs if Solid Energy folds.

Westland mayor Mike Havill says the initiative will help each council to get the "maximum value" out of their communities.

"There is the opportunity to leverage off the $1 million, so we will have to come up with projects that will allow us to generate even more funding and ensure the whole of the Westland District and its businesses benefit."

Grey District mayor Tony Kokshoorn says the stimulus is "just what we need at the moment" and will help employment numbers while Buller mayor Garry Howard promised to get the best use possible out of the fund.

Each council will submit a proposal to the trust for consideration and must meet criteria which show they understand how to promote business growth.

DWC is also expected to announce a specific stimulus package for local businesses in the coming weeks and will allow them to apply for their own funding.

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