Government creates 700 regional jobs in first stage of regions plan

Winston Peters and Shane Jones.
Winston Peters and Shane Jones. Photo credit: Getty

The Government has announced the first allocations of its $1 billion-a-year provincial growth fund for the regions.

It will spend $61.1 million on forestry, tourism, rail and roading and there will be number of reviews and feasibility studies for further spending.

The Oppositon says the fund is "nothing more than a rebranding" of projects earmarked under National.

Regional development is a challenge for the Government. Many businesses are attracted to setting up in cities, where there is a larger employment pool and more connections to other goods and businesses.

As a result, 45 percent of New Zealand's unemployed live in the regions. 

"Nearly half of us live outside our main cities. If this country is to do well, then our provinces must thrive," Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones said.

Mr Jones says the first projects announced today will create 700 direct jobs and 80 indirect jobs. 

"Our first regional packages support the regions most neglected by the last government: in Northland, Tairāwhiti-East Coast, Hawke's Bay and Manawatū-Whanganui and the West Coast of the South Island," Mr Jones said.

"We are providing an immediate boost to these areas by investing $61.7 million into forestry initiatives, tourism ventures, rail and roading projects, and supporting these regions develop their proposals further to help them get off the ground."

National says it's simply re-announcing National's Regional Growth Fund.

"What regional businesses want to know is whether the Government’s negative policies for regional New Zealand will still go ahead," Bill English said on Friday.

“This investment won't compensate for bad employment law, bad immigration policy and restricting foreign investment."

He said New Zealanders will be disappointed with the announcements.

Gisborne 

Tourism and forestry will be a focus in Gisborne and Hawkes Bay, which will see $9.2 million invested in the region.

The Government has announced it will provide support for a tourism package, including $2.3 million to redevelop Gisborne Inner Harbour and $1 million toward a programme to commemorate the first encounters between Māori and Europeans. 

$200,000 will be contributed to "kick-start" the creation of a $20 million Wood Processing Centre of Excellence in Gisborne, expected to create 167 jobs.

Up to $5 million will be allocated to KiwiRail to reopen the Wairoa to Napier line for logging trains.

There will be investments in planting mānuka trees "to support a recirculating wetland to filter water on 80 hectares of land next to the Whakaki Lake in the Wairoa district and contributing toward the Makauri Managed Aquifer Recharge trial to combat declining water levels."

Whanganui

The regional city's port and precinct will get a $6m upgrade, including an overhaul of the rail line. It's expected to create 150 new jobs. 

Mr Jones says it will encourage new businesses and provide rejuvenation for the region. 

"The goal is to create a more extensive area for value-added specialist manufacturing and make Whanganui an attractive investment prospect for marine and logistics-related industries" he says. 

KiwiRail will get $3m for a three-year project to upgrade the rail line between the port and the Main Trunk Line at Marton, to boost the capacity for logs and dairy wagons. 

The company claims it will keep 6250 trucks off the road and prevent 563 tonnes of carbon dioxide being pumped into the atmosphere. 

Ports of Auckland relocation

Cabinet has given the go-ahead for the development of an Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy.

That will include a plan for the long-term future of ports in the Upper North Island.

"As per our coalition agreement, we are committed to exploring the feasibility of moving the location of the Ports of Auckland, including giving Northport serious consideration.

"We are also committed to investigating a rail line to Marsden Point and Northport and upgrading the North Auckland Line to take pressure off the roads in Northland."

West Coast

The South Island's West Coast region has been given an initial $1.5 million for a number of projects and feasibility studies. 

Its Wilderness Cycle Trail gets $500,000 for an extension from Hokitika to Ross and the Old Ghost Road cycle trail also gets $500,000 for repairs, new facilities and more accommodation. 

Around $350,000 will fund an investigation into building a waste-to-energy plant in Buller, which would power local horticulture projects. It's claimed to provide 50 new jobs. 

Tourism hotspot Punakaiki gets $100,000 towards developing a master plan to deal with challenges associated with growing tourist numbers. 

The billion trees promise

Mr Jones didn't announce any new purchases of land for planting all those promised trees.

But he did say the Government is "finalising" an agreement with Landcorp to plant one million trees this winter and another million trees next year.

Today he announced applications for an Afforestation Grants Scheme are open. The scheme allows $1300 of funding per hectare of forestry.

Newshub.

Contact Newshub with your story tips:
news@newshub.co.nz