Tourism projects in Northland, Tairāwhiti-East Coast, Manawatū-Whanganui and the West Coast are among the first to benefit from the government’s initial deployment of its $1bn Provincial Growth Fund.
Almost $62m worth of regional investment for tourism ventures, forestry initiatives, and rail and roading projects, were announced today by the Regional Economic Development minister Shane Jones.
Among the tourism investments in Northland is $4.6m towards a new cultural tourism experience in Opononi – the Manea Footprints of Kupe Cultural Heritage and Education Centre.
The centre would celebrate Kupe’s voyage to Hokianga and his journeys across Aotearoa with a combination of guided tours, interactive performances and technology stations.
“We know that Northland has higher than average unemployment and the Manea Footprints of Kupe Cultural Heritage and Education Centre is a great project that will enhance economic development,” said tourism minister Kelvin Davis.
“It will create up to 14 full-time jobs and will provide additional tourism opportunities for Northland’s West Coast.”
The PGF would also provide $2.3m to build a tourism hub in the centre of Kawakawa. The funding would go towards a visitor, arts, culture and environment centre that would help attract people to the town and improve infrastructure, including toilets, car parks, tourist information, public spaces and a library.
The PGF would also grant $1m to the Hihiaua Cultural Centre in Whangarei to help create a contemporary Māori precinct.
Overall, $17m would be spent in Northland to help create jobs, address infrastructure deficits, diversify the regional economy and enhance the region’s tourism opportunities.
“Tourism is a growing sector with far-reaching benefits but Northland is severely restricted in terms of capacity to both keep up with demand, and capitalise on the opportunities that tourism presents for Northland,” said Jones.
The PGF would also provide support for a broad tourism package in the Gisborne region, including $2.3m to redevelop the city’s inner harbour and $1m toward a programme to commemorate the first encounters between Māori and Europeans.
Alongside investment from Air New Zealand and Activate Tairāwhiti, the fund would provide $60,000 to the cost of developing three specific tourism products: the Mount Hikurangi tourism experience, Chardonnay Express and Waka Hourua Tairāwhiti.
“The three tourism products in development are an effective way of getting things underway while a more comprehensive regional tourism strategy is progressed,” said Jones.
“Mount Hikurangi is within the rohe of Ngāti Porou and is the iwi’s most significant icon. There’s appetite to develop a fully-guided overnight visitor package and offer a unique cultural and outdoor experience.
“The wonderfully-named Chardonnay Express will see visitors board the historic WA165 steam locomotive highlighting the region’s history, landscape, and food and wine.
“Waka Hourua Tairāwhiti is a double-hulled vessel used to navigate and voyage the Pacific Ocean. It has the potential to become an attractive tourism product, and a resource to generate income and create jobs for Tairāwhiti students who participate in educational programmes.”
The region is hosting Tuia – Encounters 250 with an additional 10,000 visitors expected to visit the region over the week of commemorations next year.
“Tairāwhiti has enormous tourism opportunities but there’s an acknowledged gap in what’s on offer for visitors, as well as some infrastructure constraints,” said Jones.
In Whanganui, the fund would invest more than $6m towards revitalisation of the port and an upgrade of the town’s rail line.
“Redevelopment of the port precinct is a significant step that will help bring in new businesses and rejuvenate the region,” said Jones.
“The goal is to create a more extensive area for value-added specialist manufacturing and make Whanganui an attractive investment prospect for marine and logistics-related industries. Expansion of the port precinct is expected to create 160 new jobs as businesses get established.”
On the West Coast, the PGF would invest in two cycle trails and work with the region to develop more proposals to be considered for funding.
“The West Coast has a historic reliance on primary industries and natural resources as the backbone of its regional economy, yet is a tourist hot spot with growing visitor numbers,” said Jones.
“Today, we’re announcing a $1m investment towards further development of two Great Rides – the West Coast Wilderness Trail and the Old Ghost Rd trail.”
The government would provide Westland District Council with up to $500,000 to complete the final section, from Hokitika to Ross, to help increase the attractiveness of the trail to visitors, encouraging them to stay longer and spend time in small communities like Ruatapu and Ross.
Funding for the Old Ghost Road trail would be contingent on a satisfactory business case.
Jones said the PGF, which would invest $1bn a year over three years, aimed to enhance economic development opportunities, contribute to community well-being, lift the productivity potential of regions, and help meet New Zealand’s climate change targets.
“The $3bn will be fully committed over three years, making investment in the provinces more attractive for private sector investment, which has strongly favoured our main urban centres in recent years,” said Jones.
“The announcements we’re making today are just the beginning and I’m looking forward to building on this momentum over the coming weeks, months and years and realising the untapped potential of our provinces.”