Million-dollar food and fibre project aims to boost Taranaki economy

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor speaks at the launch in Taranaki.
Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor speaks at the launch in Taranaki. Photo credit: Supplied

By Maja Burry of RNZ

A new project aimed at boosting Taranaki's food and fibre industry has been launched by Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor.

The goal of the two-year, $914,000 dollar project, called Branching Out, is to identify up to a dozen ventures that had the potential to boost Taranaki's economy, O'Connor said.

The Ministry for Primary Industries would cover about $600,000 dollars of the project through its Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures fund, while the rest of the money had been contributed by local councils, crown research institutes and Massey University.

O'Connor said the region needed investment and support to get promising new ventures off the ground.

"While Taranaki has a strong rural economy, it is facing challenges where consumer demand and climatic conditions are impacting the food and farming sectors,

"Branching Out provides the opportunity to help Taranaki grow new value-add industries, to diversify the local economy and set it up for the future."

Damien O'Connor launched the programme in Taranaki.
Damien O'Connor launched the programme in Taranaki. Photo credit: Supplied

He said a key part of the new project was also looking at ways to diversify and complement existing land-use and value chains, to better support biodiversity and environmental outcomes.

The regional development agency, Venture Taranaki, would lead the two-year project. Its chief executive, Justine Gilliland said the initiative would help the food and fibre as it transitions away from commodity, to value added products.

"Through Branching Out, we want to identify and kick-start new, complementary enterprises, create exciting new job opportunities, support local businesses, and foster expertise that could help provide greater resilience in our region,

"By linking up resources, we can scale-up the project and get things moving much faster than we'd otherwise have been able to. The support and interest the project has gained from a number of organisations has been pivotal in getting it off the ground."

O'Connor said the programme could prove to be a formula that worked for other regions too.

"We hope this programme will be a model and inspiration to other regions throughout the country to grow their local economies and boost sustainability."