Government's $1 billion regional growth fund: First recipients announced, so who gets what?

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.

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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 Government has announced the first regional projects to be funded under an election promise to pour $1 billion per year Source: 1 NEWS

"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


Logging truck on New Zealand road.
Logging truck on New Zealand road. Source:

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

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  

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.

West Coast

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.


The fund came out of the coalition agreement between Labour and NZ First. Source: 1 NEWS

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'Government coming apart at the seams' says Simon Bridges as second minister gone

National Party Leader Simon bridges says today's dumping of Customs Minister Meka Whaitiri shows more weak leadership by the Prime Minister, leading to a weak Government which is "coming apart at the seams".

Less than a year in Government, two ministers are now gone after Jacinda Ardern today axed Ms Whaitiri following a Ministerial Services report on an incident last month in which she was alleged to have assaulted a staff member during an event in Gisborne.

It comes after the MP was accused of assaulting a staff member in Gisborne. Source: 1 NEWS

Clare Curran quit her remaining ministerial roles about two weeks ago after being rattled in Parliament over questions about her use of personal email for Government business, and having already been stripped of two portfolios over undeclared meetings.

Mr Bridges says today's sacking of Ms Whaitiri is more weak leadership leading to a weak government. 

"I mean we've not had a ongoing series of chaos and sagas, whether it's been Curran, now Whaitiri, and of course managing or not managing as the case may be Winston Peters," the National Party leader said. 

"The Prime Minister has to take responsibility for that weak leadership. If we look at Meka Whaitiri, what's happened here is very clear. Nothing has changed. She's known the facts about an alleged incident now for week, but just like with Curran she has dithered and mucked around and she should have dealt with this much more early," he said.

Ms Whaitiri will stay on as the MP for Ikaroa-Rāwhiti and Mr Bridges says that's a question for the Prime Minister.

"I think the reality is she still has leadership roles here. She's still chairing a caucus committee, and that's not good enough," he said.

"Still there's basic questions that I'm sure the Prime Minister knows but she won't answer, like whether there's been other incidents, what has happened here. She should have got to the bottom of this and dealt with this a long time ago."

Mr Bridges said Ms Ardern has not been strong enough on the matter.

"This has been weak leadership and weak government. It's why we're seeing the Government coming apart at the seams, you know around two ministers in a couple of weeks, around a coalition where they can't get agreement on basic things, this is yet more evidence of something that could have been dealt with decisively and strongly but has been weak," Mr Bridges said.

The National Party leader says the axing of Meka Whaitiri is more slow, weak leadership leading to weak government. Source: 1 NEWS


Man, 25, charged with murder over death of eight-month-old girl in 2016

A man has been charged with the murder of an eight-month-old girl in Whanganui in 2016.

Police say the 25-year-old man appeared in Masterton District Court today and has been remanded in custody.

Bella Richardson died at a property in Whanganui on 7 November 2016.

Police say the accused was known but not related to her.

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Watch: Can you help? Black car takes off from West Auckland suburb after driver tries to grab woman

Police have released footage in the hopes it will help them find a man who grab a woman in West Auckland while she was walking down a street at night last week.

Detective Elizabeth Willis says the victim was walking towards Riversdale Road in Avondale on September 11 when she was followed by a man driving a black sedan between 8pm and 9:30pm.

The man, described as being possibly Māori or Pacific Island descent, in his 30s and around 175cm tall, yelled out to the victim before proceeding to park his car on Riversdale Road.

As the woman walked past, the suspect got out of his vehicle and grabbed her from behind but the victim managed to escape and hide until the man left the scene.

"This was a particularly frightening experience for the victim and we are very keen to hear from anyone who may have witnessed the incident or seen other suspicious behaviour in the area," Detective Willis said.

"If you have seen a vehicle or person matching this description behaving suspiciously, please call us immediately, even the smallest piece of information may prove valuable to help ensure this man is held to account for his actions."

People with information can contact Detective Willis from Avondale Police on (09) 820 5776 or anonymously provide information to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Police are hunting the man who was driving the car in Avondale, followed the woman and grabbed her from behind. Source: