Government stimulus funding would create 200 jobs – Buller mayor

7:00 pm on 4 May 2020

The government's Covid-19 stimulus package could deliver more than 200 jobs and secure Buller's economic future, according to mayor Jamie Cleine.

The council is keen on a road from the coast to the Nelson-Tasman region.

Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

Buller District Council has applied for $25 million in Crown infrastructure funding: $7m connected to Westport's port precinct, and most of the rest for water supply upgrades across the district.

The development of the fishing port and new industries in Westport would reshape Buller's economy and mark a turning point for the district after a tough few years, Cleine said.

"Buller has faced many challenges over the past five years with the closure of its largest employers.

"The impact on jobs and GDP has been one of the most severe in the region's long and proud history as a mining, cement production and primary producing region."

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Buller mayor Jamie Cleine Photo: Supplied

But fishing and farming were still going full steam ahead, and the government's economic stimulus package could be a game changer for the district, he said.

"We can now clearly see large-scale opportunities to redefine our future. My council is committed to a positive solution-based approach that provides economic sustainability to Buller and the West Coast economy."

That would mean more focus on supporting and growing key industries such as fishing, heavy mineral sands exports, and existing mining and primary industries, Cleine said.

If the government came to the party, the projects would create 100 jobs almost immediately, and up to 200 in the long term.

That would have the spin-off effect of stimulating other business in Buller like hospitality, the mayor said.

The council's funding wishlist for the port precinct included a whitebait farm, an energy plant, expanded fish processing facilities, housing units for workers, gravel extraction and mineral extraction plants.

The catalyst for these had been the Provincial Growth Fund's $4m grant to renew the fishing jetties at the port.

"Off the back of this catalyst investment, we can now present a strategic package for the 'fishing precinct' which sees significant private investment in related industries."

A native plants nursery and horticulture venture at Waimangaroa were also potential winners, Cleine said.

"Bathurst support this - they have the land and the expertise and at the moment they buy tens of thousands of plants to to rehabilitate mine sites, from Canterbury - that's 10 jobs right there."

The water projects include new supply systems or upgrades for Punakaiki, Reefton, South Granity and Waimangaroa, as well as the Westport trunk.

"What we are proposing would mean a great leap forward for Buller - for a relatively modest capital investment by the government," Cleine said.

The council hopes to hear this month if the projects will be funded.

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