The Government says it will contribute $4 million towards the Hundertwasser Art Centre in Whangarei as part of a new Northland economic development plan.
Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce today announced the 58 initiatives proposed at a meeting of Northland business and political leaders at Marsden Estate winery.
The $4 million towards the long-hoped for Hundertwasser Art Gallery is conditional on the Whangarei Museum Trust raising a further $8.2 million.
Mr Joyce said he was confident of that happening and had been assured a significant portion had already been raised.
The museum was designed in 1993 by Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, who also designed the landmark toilets in Kawakawa.
Other initiatives focussed on tourism, improving productivity of farmland and infrastructure, such as transport, including upgrades of three of the 10 one-way bridges National promised to upgrade during the Northland by-election last year.
Mr Joyce said improving infrastructure would help unlock the resource of Northland. He said unemployment had dropped from 8.1 per cent in 2014 to 6.2 now but more had to be done.
The announcement coincided with the signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership in Auckland, and Mr Joyce used the occasion to plug that trade agreement and its potential benefits for Northland.
However, not everybody was happy with the plan. Former MP and regional councillor Dover Samuels tackled Mr Joyce for the focus on Whangarei and the lower north rather than the Far North.
Northland MP, NZ First leader Winston Peters said the funding for the Hundertwasser Art Centre was about $2.5 million less than hoped but was welcome.
He said the rest of the action plan left it unclear which projects were being prioritised.
He said the TPP would deliver little for critical sectors for the North such as dairy.
Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell said one of the most important things for Northland was for Ngapuhi to resolve its settlement.
"Yes, discussion about sovereignty is nice and it will be a long discussion. But at this point in time, in Te Tai Tokerau, 27.5 per cent of the youth are at risk. That is unacceptable."
He said the settlement would see more money roll out and the iwi could not wait for another 10 years.
He also urged Maori to look for investment partners.
"I don't think we should be scared about having a discussion about investors. I think the time has come for people not to be scared about having a korero about investment because if we can not do it ourselves we must look to partners, whether that be government or private or indeed those from overseas."
Labour and Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis said any investment in the region was welcome and it was good to see Maori leaders involved.
However, he said there were two major "speed bumps" which had to be managed - water rights and local opposition to mining because of concerns about environmental contamination.
"Each mineral has to be looked at on its own merits and you have to balance the economic value against environmental costs."
Labour opposes the TPP and Mr Davis said there were valid concerns about it. He did not necessarily believe claims it would be good for the region, saying some studies pointed to job losses.
"Who do you believe?"
He said he agreed with Mr Flavell's plea for Ngapuhi to move towards settlement and to look at investment partners.
"That is all about relationships which is a very Maori kaupapa."