Trains, tree, houses - Government's big Northland spend

The Government is spending $46 million on a handful of projects aiming to create jobs, boost tourism and help house Māori in Northland.

As expected, there are investments in forestry, as well as money toward building the Hundertwasser Arts Centre, which has been on hold since 1993, when the artist was asked to design an art centre for Whangārei.

Model of the Hundertwasser Art Centre with Wairau Māori Art Gallery.
Model of the Hundertwasser Art Centre with Wairau Māori Art Gallery. Photo credit:

Less expected are the transport announcements - more than $6 million from the provincial growth fund will create business cases for roads on the picturesque Twin Coast Discovery Route, and sending rail north of Auckland will also be investigated.

The Government insists the announced projects will create jobs and attract tourists.

"This is all about investing in the north, generating job opportunities, infrastructure and things the local government and communities have asked for support around," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, who negotiated the $1 billion-a-year provincial growth fund into the coalition agreement, says the north has been ignored for too long.

"We haven't seen this for decades," Mr Peters said.

"When I was a young guy going to secondary school in the north, project after project was being invested in the north, and then we've had decades of nothing, and now it's big turnaround time," Mr Peters said.

National is less enthusiastic - particularly about the $6.2 million spend on a business case for Northland's roads and $500,000 for investigating extending rail in the north.

"It's unbelievable after several months that the best they can do for Transport in Northland is announce they are spending money on more business cases for road and rail," Transport spokesperson Jami-Lee Ross says.

"How about getting on and building something decent like the four-laning of State Highway One between Auckland and Whangārei that they are so lukewarm about?"

The announcements

  • $6.6 million for Trees That Count

This money will go toward scaling up a project that gets individuals and businesses planting trees.

"We want everyone - children, mums and dads, grandparents, teenagers, iwi and private businesses - to be part of the nationwide native tree planting movement as part of the One Billion Trees programme," Forestry Minister Shane Jones said.

  • Hundertwasser Arts Centre

Hundertwasser Arts Centre and Wairau Māori Art Gallery get $10 million to build the centre.

The Government says 60 building jobs will be created during the two-year build, followed by 31 fulltime jobs in the centre's art gallery, education centre and cafe.

  • Commercial forest on iwi land

Investments in pine on 150 hectares of Ngāti Rāhia land near Kerikeri. The Provincial Growth Fund will also invest $288,000 to explore the establishment of a kauri dieback sanctuary on Ngāti Rehia land.

  • Northland roads

Funding will be invested into a "package of business cases" for improving Northland's tourist-trail road - the Twin Coast Discovery Route.

"We can help by ensuring their journey through Northland is a pleasurable experience on safe and resilient roads. The work that will be undertaken by the NZ Transport Agency could lead to future investment of $94 million," Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis said.

  • Northland rail

Sending rail north will be investigated at a cost of $500,000.

Mr Twyford said the Government thinks sending rail north of Auckland could help boost Northland's export potential.

"The business case will test this and determine the appetite for rail as a viable option for transporting freight in and out of the region. It will also investigate whether the upgrade could include a new spur line to Marsden Point to support Northport's growth," Phil Twyford said.

  • Māori housing

Four new transitional homes will be built in Whangārei, as well as a home for a support worker, and a central whare.