PGF funding signed off for Eastern BOP

8:13 am on 1 May 2020

Whānau returning home to their ancestral lands in Eastern Bay of Plenty will be supported through the economic turmoil of Covid-19 as promised money from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) is finalised.

Iwi leader Willie Te Aho

Te Whānau a Maruhaeremuri Hapū Trust chairman Willie Te Aho Photo: RNZ

Loans from the PGF up the coast and in Whakatāne were finalised this week, representing a $30 million boost into the region.

The Raukokore River Water Ltd water storage project and the Wai o Kaha Gold JV Ltd Partnership are included in the projects receiving final sign-off.

Te Whānau a Maruhaeremuri Hapū Trust chairman Willie Te Aho said, 10 years ago, his people were fully sufficient and this represented a move back to those times.

"We were looking after ourselves and then we were devastated by the Spanish flu in 1918," Te Aho said.

"While there have been no deaths here, it is the economic impact we are going to have to lead ourselves out of."

Te Aho said the hapū had three projects that would benefit from the PGF. In addition to the water storage project and kiwifruit orchard, the hapū would also be planting a macadamia orchard.

Prior to the funding being finalised, Te Aho said a lot of work had already been undertaken, such as determining the exact place to extract water for the storage project.

He said construction should begin in June and this would see a four-hectare pond built to service 200 hectares of land in irrigation.

The projects are inter-connected and the irrigation will back the kiwifruit and macadamia orchards.

Currently the hapū is bidding for a gold kiwifruit licence and, if successful, work will begin on developing the orchard in June.

The kiwifruit orchard company is named Wai o Kaha for the river that runs between the two hapū responsible for it.

Fencing of the macadamia orchard will also begin soon, with half the orchard due to be planted this spring, and the second half the following spring.

Te Aho said the projects would provide jobs for the hapū and already whānau were returning home.

Three locals have been given horticulture training and are set to start development of their own orchard.

One trained in orchard management was moving his wife and six children home to the coast yesterday.

"We will need a full-time team of eight for our orchards, and the irrigation project will provide 10 full-time equivalent jobs for at least the next 10 years," Te Aho said.

"It will be specialist work but we are looking to include local operators in that."

Te Aho said if they wanted to utilise their own people for their workforce, they would need to look at developing their housing and infrastructure.

Already the trust is looking at creating 15 papakāinga houses.

The Whakatāne projects for which funding was finalised this week include the riverfront revitalisation and the boat harbour.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones said the millions in loans from the PGF being "pumped into" the regions would help offset the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"While this government has responded quickly to the need for short- and medium-term support for Kiwis, businesses and industry, we are also working on a comprehensive long-term economic recovery package," Jones said.

"Finalising these Provincial Growth Fund loans and getting this much-needed capital into the regions over the next few months will aid longer-term economic stability and create sustainable jobs in the regions.

"They are proof of the commitment we have to supporting our regions and the confidence we have that they will recover economically from what has been a devastating blow for some regions and sectors."

The projects receiving loans include water storage projects and horticulture development on underutilised land and include iwi and council ventures.

"These projects are going to make a real social and economic difference in their communities," Jones said.

"Our regions will play a large role in the recovery of our economy and we need to channel every dollar of PGF funding we can into supporting them and the communities within them."

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