A milestone for Bay of Plenty jobs, businesses and regional economic development is being marked as construction gets under way on the multimillion-dollar Ōpōtiki harbour infrastructure project.
Economic and Regional Development Minister Stuart Nash has joined Whakatōhea iwi, local councils and representatives of the aquaculture and marine industry at a ceremony with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to celebrate the beginning of the harbour construction.
"We are today celebrating the growth of a community which is now able to move from strength to strength," Nash said.
The Government was investing more than $112 million in three major infrastructure projects as part of the Ōpōtiki Harbour Development project, Nash said in a statement.
He said the investments were in partnership with iwi, local government and the commercial sector, which were all co-funding or contributing to the developments.
"The community can now celebrate progress on a project that has been a priority for this region for 20 years yet failed to win support in the past. The harbour and aquaculture development will unlock the region's potential and drive the local economic recovery.
"This funding is significant. It includes $79.4 million for the Ōpōtiki Harbour development, $24.85 million for aquaculture development and a mussel processing factory, and $8.8 million for new marine and industrial infrastructure.
"The combination of community-led development and Government support is building the infrastructure and workforce needed to make sustainable change to the region's economic fortunes. Ōpōtiki has high levels of deprivation and around 44 per cent of people have incomes under $20,000.
"This is a major achievement for all the partners, including Whakatōhea iwi, Ōpotiki District Council, Bay of Plenty Regional Council and a number of government agencies, which have provided broad-based support to the region."
The harbour construction project was the latest Government-supported project to get under way in Ōpōtiki. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, additional investment offered new opportunities for Ōpōtiki and for worker redeployment initiatives, Nash said.
This had resulted in upgrades to important community assets such as five marae, a war memorial, roads, footpaths, cycle trails, horse trails, parks, playgrounds, green spaces and seismic strengthening of council buildings.
More than 1225 direct jobs would be created in the Ōpōtiki district through Provincial Development Unit-managed investment alone, he said.
"Many of the people working on these projects are now moving on to aquaculture-related construction projects and today's event provided an opportunity to celebrate the success of this community investment and its contribution to the town's wider development," Nash said.