At least 150 jobs are expected to be created as a $28 million Western Bay of Plenty infrastructure project gets the green light.
Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford confirmed yesterday the Government had approved a $14m grant towards the urbanisation of Ōmokoroa. The money means work on the project, which is expected to take several years, can start immediately and contracts for the work are already out for tender.
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The funding comes from the Government's $3 billion Crown Infrastructure Partners (CIP) economic stimulus which prioritises "shovel-ready" projects.
Western Bay mayor Garry Webber said the funding was "really significant".
The project had been included in the Western Bay of Plenty District Council's Long Term Plan and was originally expected to be funded by ratepayers over a number of years. The remainder of the money needed for the project will come from ratepayers.
"We would have been doing it in future years but now we've got this money from central government we are able to start immediately. That's an incredible opportunity for our council."
The funding also meant the creation of 150 jobs, he said.
"We can get this started and get people affected by unemployment into some work. It might not be their ideal work but it's still work."
The urbanisation work at Ōmokoroa includes building footpath/cycleway facilities, new bus stops and shelters, intersection upgrades, roundabout installations, service relocations, water main installation and upgrades to street lighting and stormwater pipes.
Webber said the project was expected to take Ōmokoroa's current population of about 4000 people - which has nearly doubled in the past 15 years - to 12,000 by 2060.
"We are becoming a reasonably large town in the neo-periphery of Tauranga city," he said.
"If people want to start building or developing there, this effectively means this land will be good to go."
In May, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency confirmed it was seeking expressions of interest for the Tauranga Northern Link, which includes an interchange at the Omokoroa Rd intersection and four-laning of State Highway 2 from there into Tauranga. It is expected to be completed by 2027.
The urbanisation of Ōmokoroa was one of 16 applications totalling $515m the council submitted for CIP funding. The status of the other applications remains unknown, for now.
Webber paid tribute to the council staff who worked over the long Easter weekend to ensure the appropriate documents were consented and approved to ensure the project, and others were "shovel ready" as soon as funding was potentially granted.
"We had consents in place, structure plans in place, all the necessary things ready to start this project. It was a great effort from our staff ... now it's all come together. Our time has come.
"We have been recognised."
Western Bay councillor Murray Grainger, who has long advocated for Ōmokoroa residents, said the announcement was "fantastic news".
Grainger said the Government originally designated Ōmokoroa for growth back in the 1990s but then "virtually ignored us".
"It's been an awfully long time. The council then started the work and put in the sewerage system way back then for the 10,000 to 12,000 people that would eventually get there. And of course, there are the transport [roading] issues so to get this from the Government is great."
Twyford said the roading and water infrastructure planned for Ōmokoroa would enable it to grow and bring much-needed housing to the Tauranga region.
"It will help Ōmokoroa become the second-largest town in the Western Bay of Plenty," he said.
"Shovel-ready infrastructure projects such as these will accelerate our economic recovery. This project will create around 150 new jobs, address local housing and transport issues and benefit the wider community," he said.
Other developments in planning for Ōmokoroa include a town centre, public facilities such as parks and reserves, a park and ride, a secondary school, a community pool and a Western Bay of Plenty District Council service centre.
The sites at the centre of the funding:
• Prole Rd urbanisation
• Western Ave urbanisation
• New industrial land access road
• Ōmokoroa Rd urbanisation (stage 1)
• Ōmokoroa urbanisation (stage 2)