The Government has announced the first regional projects to be funded under an election promise to pour $1 billion per year, in their first term, into regional development projects to drive growth in the provinces.
In a series of announcements this morning, Shane Jones, Minister for Regional Economic Development, says the Government has committed to backing projects in Northland, Bay of Plenty, East Coast, Manawatu-Whanganui and West Coast, identifying the areas as regions needing "early investment", and having been neglected by the previous government.
Today's announcements will see $61.7 million going into forestry initiatives, tourism ventures, rail and roading projects. The projects will create more than 700 direct jobs, and 80 indirect jobs, according to the Government.
"Our first regional packages support the regions most neglected by the last government," Mr Jones said.
"The first of many projects the PGF will support will create more than 700 direct jobs, and 80 indirect jobs - an impressive start to what will be an exciting three years for our provinces."
That includes $17m towards tourism and infrastructure in Northland, $9.2m towards for tourism in Gisborne, funding to help revitalise Whanganui Port, and $1m for two "Great Rides" bike trails on the West Coast.
Separately, Cabinet had approved a review into moving Ports of Auckland north as part of a wider look at Northland's transport, Mr Jones said.
Regional rail is also set to get a modest boost, with $8.75m allocated to reopening the Wairoa-to-Napier train line and upgrading Whanganui's line, and funding for studies in three other projects.
"These are relatively modest investments in dollar terms, but we expect them to deliver good value and to support regional businesses," Mr Jones said.
The rest of the $3b allocated to the fund over three years will be open to the regions for proposals, with an independent panel appointed to help the government where it should go.
"Our provinces are full of ideas and proposals. I have been heartened by the aspirations of so many businesses and investors, local councils, iwi, and community groups and I'm pleased to say that we now have a mechanism to see these realised," Mr Jones.
The regional fund was part of New Zealand First's coalition agreement with the Labour Party as was the Ports of Auckland review.
Spending announced today
Northland will receive $17 million to "help create jobs, address infrastructure deficits, diversify the regional economy and enhance the tourism opportunities".
They include: two cultural centres in Opononi and Whangarei, a tōtara industry pilot to explore a new market in the forestry sector, the construction of a new tourism hub in Kawakawa and a long-awaited roading project.
There will be more Northland announcements in the coming weeks.
Gisborne/East Coast will receive $2.3 million to redevelop the Gisborne Inner Harbour, $1 million towards tourism projects in Tairāwhiti, $200,000 to kick start the creation of a "$20 million Wood Processing Centre of Excellence in Gisborne", $100,000 to establish a Mānuka plantation in Wairoa and $543,000 for the next stage of the Makauri Managed Aquifer Recharge trial in Gisborne.
Hawke's Bay will receive $5 million for KiwiRail to reopen the Wairoa-Napier line, which will take 5,700 trucks off the road each year.
The West Coast will receive $1 million for the development of two new Great Rides – the West Coast Wilderness Trail and the Old Ghost Rd trail, $100,000 to help Punakaiki develop a much-needed master plan to future-proof the township and $350,000 to assist in understanding the opportunity of a waste-to-energy plant in the Buller District.