Unlocking the potential of the regions

Wairoa Star, Wairoa East Coast by STUART NASH 01 Mar 2018

WAIROA and Hawke’s Bay have done well out of the first round of investment from the new Provincial Growth Fund.

The rail line from Wairoa will be restored and logs will be delivered straight to the Port of Napier by train.

There will be a new programme to plant manuka trees around Lake Whakaki to support the wetlands. It will also reduce the risk of floods and boost the local honey industry.

The $9.2 million investment in Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne is just the start. It’s part of a larger $1 billion a year fund to give back to the regions, which have been neglected for too long.

Businesses, councils, iwi and others can apply for funding. The wider Hawke’s Bay region and the town of Wairoa must work hard to access more of this funding over the next three years.

The new Provincial Fund is primarily about enabling companies to grow and expand, but alongside that it is designed to enhance the well-being of our people.

Wairoa, along with Ngati Kahungunu, has already identified a series of forestry initiatives that have the potential to drive long term and sustainable employment and growth. My colleague, the NZ First Minister Shane Jones, has a big promise – to plant a billion trees over the next 10 years. Any robust business case involving expanding the forest industry in Hawke’s Bay is bound to be well received.

Other projects will also get a good hearing if the business case for economic development and social well-being is strong and the benefits are proven.

This is why Wairoa must look to develop innovative business ideas to drive long term growth and employment across the region.

I know Rocket Lab is getting the limelight, but there will be other possibilities that are not quite so high profile. Nevertheless they will bring benefits.

For example, I have encouraged a Napier businessman to apply for funding. He has purchased an Auckland company and is interested in relocating the manufacturing side of this company to Napier in order to expand the firm’s production. This ticks two boxes: it brings employment and economic activity to the region while playing a very small role in alleviating the stress on Auckland’s infrastructure.

An independent advisory panel will make the funding decisions with government officials at MBIE. Whether he will be successful in getting support to relocate and expand will rest on the strength on his business case. But this is the type of economic development opportunity that has a solid chance of being high up the funding queue.

This is also the sort of opportunity that I encourage Wairoa to seek out and develop. We need companies with specific competencies. If they don’t necessarily need to be in Auckland or Wellington, they could relocate to Wairoa and set up for a fraction of the cost of purchasing more land in our big cities.

We do have to be careful that we don’t set up in competition to well established local companies. But the possibilities are y endless. It’s just a matter of identifying them. If you’re interested, make the case to the company itself and work with its senior management to ensure the proposal is robust and has all the chances for success.

Wairoa has the potential to do remarkably well. Let’s push on and seize these chances while we can.

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