A new horticulture project aims to create dozens of jobs for Māori food producers in Whakatāne.
The Government on Friday announced it would be earmarking $2.1 million for the initiative as part of the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF).
The money will go to developing an 18.8 hectare blueberry orchard on Māori land, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said.
It is estimated around 157 local jobs will be created as part of the initiative.
"We want to minimise any disproportionate economic impacts of COVID-19 in our regions and it is important we support Māori-owned and led initiatives that have the ability to boost economic wellbeing for tangata whenua," Peters said.
The funding will be given as a loan to the Meihana Koata Trust, which will work in partnership with Miro, a collective of 29 Māori iwi, hapū and whānau.
"This project represents a sustainable, modern approach to developing Māori land. It provides opportunities for its staff to be trained in high-tech horticultural practices, while creating value for New Zealand’s primary sector," said Fletcher Tabuteau, Under-Secretary for Regional Economic Development.
Nine hectares of the orchard have already been developed with preparations already underway for the first harvest later this year.