With the lowest GDP in the country, the lowest average household income an some of the highest unemployment levels in the country, Northland has been a victim of neglect. But it has enormous untapped potential.
Nearly half of New Zealand's population lives outside our big cities, and for New Zealand to be strong, our regions need to be strong.
That's why New Zealand First fought to set up the Provincial Growth Fund as part of the coalition, investing $1 billion per annum over the next three years in our regions. We want to create sustainable jobs for people to support themselves and their families, enhance economic development opportunities, and build resilient communities.
We'll do that by improving employment rates and wages, lowering the rates of young people outside of work, education or training, and building infrastructure to help deliver opportunities.
The first tranche of projects focuses on our priority regions and the one-billion-tree programme. This first stage invests $61.7 million into forestry initiatives, tourism ventures, rail and roading projects that have the potential to create more than 700 direct jobs.
Northland has been assessed as one the regions most neglected by the National government. With the lowest GDP in the country, the lowest average household income an some of the highest unemployment levels in the country, Northland has been a victim of neglect. But it has enormous untapped potential.
We're looking to work in partnership with local stakeholders to bring it up to the standard it deserves. This first stage has set aside $17.5m to support tourism, forestry and roading projects in Northland.
Initial projects include support for cultural centres in Opononi and Whangarei, and a tourism hub in Kawakawa that will create jobs and boost economic opportunities, will draw people into town and provide important infrastructure for locals as well as tourists.
We're working on a $9m upgrade at the SH10/Waipapa Rd intersection, which will greatly improve safety, reduce congestion, and support overall economic growth in the region.
Funding is also being put towards a two-year pilot to look at developing a totara wood industry in the Far North.
Totara can create high-value wood products, and the establishment of a new industry would provide 200 direct jobs, and 1750 indirect jobs. And, as promised, a feasibility study on moving the Auckland Port to Northport is being considered as part of a wider Northland strategy.
This is just the beginning. We have $3 billion set aside for the next three years, and we want sound partnerships with our regions to support long-term economic strategies.
There are detailed eligibility and assessment criteria to ensure your money isn't wasted, projects are viable, and opportunities are made the best of. Officials will work with regions, sectors and business to develop projects.
It will take time for some of the biggest projects to get off the ground, but the Labour-NZ First coalition is committed to moving at a pace that supports our regions, and to get it right.
Our regions are the lifeblood of our country, and they deserve our support.