Govt invests $80m in Manawatū freight hub and faster internet in regions

6:30 pm on 15 November 2018

A new regional freight hub near Palmerston North and a big boost for internet in the regions are two of the latest investments the government's making from the Provincial Growth Fund.

Shane Jones

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones has announced a $40m grant for KiwiRail to develop a freight hub near Palmerston North. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The government is putting $40 million into a new regional freight hub near Palmerston North. This investment will be used by KiwiRail to design the freight hub and buy the land needed for the project.

"This is a major investment for Palmerston North, which will unlock new economic opportunities for people and businesses across the wider Manawatū-Whanganui region," Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones said.

Palmerston North is KiwiRail's key staging point for freight in the Lower North Island. In the last year 2.4 million tonnes moved through the current Palmerston North rail facility, and there is a real opportunity to grow that amount.

Mr Jones said also had a stern message for the company.

"KiwiRail needs to do a lot more heavy lifting in provincial New Zealand," he said.

"We need to see more logs on KiwiRail assets out in Wairarapa, we need to see more freight on KiwiRail, and mediated through hubs like we're seeking to create here."

The government is also investing $40m to make the internet faster and more accessible in the regions and to get rid of black spots for mobile phones.

The funding will also be used to ensure marae that don't have fast internet can be connected.

"It is no secret that people living in our regions, particularly in remote areas, face slower internet speeds than their urban counterparts," Mr Jones said.

"Improving digital connectivity is particularly important for businesses located in our regions and is a vital foundation for catalysing further economic development opportunities."

Mr Jones made the announcements along with Communications Minister Kris Faafoi at Manfeild Park near Feilding today.

The park itself benefits as it will be home to a new national commercial driver programme funded with $2.8m from the Provincial Growth Fund.

The programme will have the ability to train up to 700 drivers and machine operators annually at Manfeild Park. The money will also help build new training facilities at the Manfeild site, including specialist training tracks.

Also announced today is a $400,000 investment to fund the first stage of an aviation training hub at Whanganui Airport.

It all comes from a $3 billion kitty Mr Jones has to dish out over three years.

"I do get criticised occasionally for having too much ambition and eagerness," Mr Jones told those gathered at Manfeild Park.

"But you know, as a politician you get a three year posting, and then when you fail or flourish after those three years it's too late to engage in a session of wailing 'what if?'.

"I'll make you one promise, but the time the three years is over there won't be one cent of the $3 billion fund looking for a home."

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