New jobs are among the benefits promised for a $27m investment from the Provincial Growth Fund for five port-related projects in Whanganui.
Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones, who made the announcement in Whanganui today, said the investments would support the redevelopment of the port and help the economic recovery in the region and create new jobs.
The projects receiving PGF support are:
- $12.5 million equity investment to the Port Infrastructure project
- $7.5 million grant to the Lower River Infrastructure project
- $5.25 million loan to Q-West Boat Builders
- $1.5 million Te Ara Mahi funding - Port Employment Precinct
"This is a significant investment that will support the redevelopment of the Whanganui Port, a project governed by a partnership of iwi, local and regional councils," Jones said.
"Collectively, these projects will create hundreds of jobs for local people, uphold the wellbeing of Te Awa Tupua, protect key infrastructure from environmental changes and ensure a viable future for local assets. This will enable Whanganui to continue to grow economically and culturally."
Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall echoed the minister.
"These projects will create hundreds of jobs for local people and ensure that Tupua te Kawa, the values associated with the legal framework of Te Awa Tupua, are upheld.
"This will see three infrastructure projects merged under a more inclusive model of governance and operation, which will be managed as a community-led exercise under the new legal status of the Whanganui River as Te Awa Tupua. Tupua te Kawa will be central to everything we do."
McDouall said the funding would enable the city to reinstate its failing port infrastructure and build new facilities to make the port viable.
"A bold new marine precinct will be created and an employment base will ensure people are taken care of and jobs for Whanganui people are at the heart of this revitalisation right from the start."
Via the Port Infrastructure project, the Whanganui District Council would upgrade wharves, develop marine infrastructure and improve its dredging capabilities to enhance the local boat building and marine industry.
Jones said the project to redevelop Whanganui Port, now known as Te Puwaha, was a cornerstone of the Manawatū-Whanganui action plan, Accelerate 25, and the action plan for Māori economic development, Te Pae Tawhiti, which had been recognised as a priority for the region's economic recovery.
The Manawatū-Whanganui Regional Council would be responsible for repairing moles and other river training structures that controlled the alignment of the lower Whanganui River. This would protect nearby developments and critical city infrastructure from flooding, and provide marine access from the sea to the port.
Jones said a PGF loan for Q-West Boat Builders would help establish a purpose-built facility and 300 tonne vessel hoist for new builds, repairs, and maintenance services within the port, while employing 30 staff and creating additional jobs with neighbouring businesses.
Managing director of Q-West Boat Builders Myles Fothergill said he envisaged Whanganui becoming a major New Zealand centre for marine development.
"My project involves creating a world-class marine precinct at the Whanganui Port. Along with neighbouring businesses, I'd expect to be looking at 80 new jobs created as a result."
The Port Employment Precinct (PEP) would be established and run by the Whanganui District Employment Training Trust to connect local people with jobs created by the port redevelopment and facilitate on-the-job and classroom-based training.
"As communities continue to feel the impact of Covid-19, projects like this are essential to upskill employees, and to connect employers with potential candidates," Jones said.
"Investing in training, infrastructure and redevelopments now will ensure the Whanganui district and wider region are able to take full advantage of new economic growth opportunities."