22 Jan 2020

More than $6 million funding boost for revitalisation in Wairoa

4:49 pm on 22 January 2020

The small Hawke's Bay town of Wairoa is set to receive a funding boost of more than $6 million to "rebuild" and "revitalise" its centre.

Fletcher Tabuteau

Regional Economic Development under-secretary Fletcher Tabuteau. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Regional Economic Development under-secretary Fletcher Tabuteau made the announcement today while visiting the area, which has long held a reputation as a gang town.

The vast bulk of the funding - up to $4.8 million - will go towards a plan to bring together the visitor centre, start-up companies, and a Rocket Lab education centre into two "under-utilised" central buildings.

"The Wairoa Integrated Business and Tourism Facility is expected to deliver benefits to the Wairoa community through attracting and supporting local businesses and start-ups to the township, increasing employment potential and diversifying economic activities," Tabuteau said.

"It is also expected to attract passing traffic and increase visitor spending across all businesses."

Up to $960,000 will also be put aside to train locals to work in the digital sector.

"The programmes will provide 12 weeks of paid digital and technology-based industry training, including software engineering, programming application and game development followed by 40 weeks' employment as a digital apprentice with at least 48 participants expected to enrol in the first two years," Tabuteau said.

Another $400,000 will be used to develop a regional digital hub to provide better internet connectivity to locals and small businesses.

"The Hub will be used for training, mentoring and business advisory with workshops to upskill business or IT related activity," Tabuteau said.

"Not everyone has access to the internet in Wairoa so this Hub will also have huge benefits for individuals in the community."

Wairoa mayor Craig Little said the funding was "a gift from the gods" and would breathe life into the town.

"It's an absolute game-changer. The CBD is obviously the heart of your town - and our heart has been a bit shabby and probably partially dead."

The area had long been neglected by governments of all stripes, Little said, but that appeared to have changed.