Plan to boost North's economy

By Peter de Graaf

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Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce announces a $4 million boost for Whangarei's Hundertwasser Centre during a Northland economic plan launch. PHOTO / PETER DE GRAAF
Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce announces a $4 million boost for Whangarei's Hundertwasser Centre during a Northland economic plan launch. PHOTO / PETER DE GRAAF

A $4 million boost for Whangarei's Hundertwasser Arts Centre and a manuka honey scheme at Northland College in Kaikohe were among the announcements at the launch of an economic plan for Northland in Kerikeri today.

The Government says the 58 actions detailed in its Tai Tokerau Northland Economic Action Plan will help transform Northland's struggling economy.

Hundertwasser was the only one to receive a direct cash infusion - provided its backers can raise the rest of the money required for the $16.25 million centre - though Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said about 19 of the projects would receive some form of government funding.

A proposal to build a pulp and timber mill at Ngawha for an estimated $600 million, using surplus steam and heat from the geothermal power station, would have to be privately funded but the government could help find investors through NZ Trade and Enterprise.

The plan was launched at Marsden Estate Winery by Mr Joyce, Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy. About 300 people attended the launch, including a who's who of Northland business and politics.

"New Zealand will not be able to realise its full economic potential until all our regions are thriving. Northland has shown good progress in recent quarters, with its unemployment rate dropping from around 8.1 per cent before we commenced this programme in April 2014 to 6.2 per cent in the latest labour force survey released this week," Mr Joyce said

But the report shows Northland, and the Far North in particular, lagging behind the rest of the country in almost every economic measure and Mr Joyce admitted a lot of work to do to realise the potential of this resource-laden region of New Zealand.

The Hundertwasser funding has been welcomed by Prosper Northland, which is behind the proposal.

With more than $10 million now raised, Prosper Northland believes the project's target of $16.25m is well within reach, trust Chairman Barry Trass said.
Mr Trass said the Government backing is a major boost.

According to the plan the best opportunities for boosting Northland's economy include:
- Twin Coast Discovery Project - otherwise known as the ten bridges.
- Tourism projects such as the expansion of Peppers Carrington, cycle trail completion, Manea Footprints of Kupe Heritage Centre in Opononi, Hundertwasser Centre.
- Farm productivity improvements
- Freeing up Maori land
- Improving key road freight routes - with no mention of any plans for rail.
- A saw and pulp mill at Ngawha, using surplus steam and heat from geothermal power station.
- Developing a totara timber industry
- A kingfish farm at Niwa's base in Bream Bay
- A boat lift and retrieval facilities in Whangarei
- Developing a manuka honey industry
- Boosting use of broadband
- Improved water storage and management

- Northern Advocate

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