Water security has been prioritised in a $68 million economic boost for Hawke's Bay from the Provincial Growth Fund.

It was announced on Monday $30.6 million has been allocated to four water security schemes across the region, the projects to be managed by Hawke's Bay Regional Council.

The largest chunk is $14.7 million to develop a Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) in Central Hawke's Bay.

MAR replenished aquifer levels by taking surface water during high flows, filtering it and releasing it into aquifers to replenish them.

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There has also been $12.9 million allocated to investigating small-scale storage options on the Heretaunga Aquifer, which supplies water to Napier and Hastings.

The rest of the package includes to research projects to better understand the region's major aquifers, and develop a management plan for freshwater.

HBRC chairman Rex Graham said the region's economic success stops without water security, but economic growth won't advance at the cost of the environment.

"This package takes this into account."

He said the package is a complex and multi-layered approach to water security in the region.

"Yes dams could be part of the solution, but there is no silver bullet, no single solution.

"The Regional Council is committed to ensuring an equal focus on water use conservation and efficiency as part of the matrix of solutions to support community wellbeing through water security."

Napier acting Mayor Faye White described the funds as a game changer. Photo / File
Napier acting Mayor Faye White described the funds as a game changer. Photo / File

Regional Councillor for CHB Debbie Hewitt said there were no easy solutions for the CHB water storage issues, but Monday's announcement was a tremendous opportunity for the community.

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"I am very grateful for all the work that the regional council staff have put into this funding, which is going to be transformational over the long term."

Environment Minister David Parker said water storage schemes were smaller than previously proposed initiatives, such as the Ruataniwha dam, and will assist the conversion of livestock farms to horticulture rather than encourage increased cattle numbers.

In total funding was announced for 20 projects, including drug and alcohol education, employment programmes, connecting 11 marae in Wairoa to ultrafast broadband, funds for Hawke's Bay airport and Matariki, the Hawke's Bay Regional Economic Development Strategy.

Parliamentary Undersecretary for Regional Economic Development, Fletcher Tabuteau, said Hawke's Bay faces challenges such as high youth unemployment, low wages and lower GDP per capita compared with the rest of New Zealand.

"The region is a significant contributor to New Zealand's agriculture sector and a global producer, processor and exporter of primary sector products.

"It is therefore heavily reliant on a dependable water supply and transport to get its products to market."

Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said the fund will help Hawke's Bay people and their wellbeing. Photo / File
Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said the fund will help Hawke's Bay people and their wellbeing. Photo / File

Napier City Council and Hastings District Council each received funding for one project, $200,000 for the Napier Port Access Enhancement Project and $600,000 for the Hastings Eastside Master Plan.

Napier's acting Mayor Faye White said any investment in water, infrastructure or education and employment related projects, as was announced, will benefit the entire region.

"Napier has several applications to the PGF pending, which we hope to hear about later this year.

"We have already received funding to assist with the business case for the National Aquarium of NZ, and are working closely with central Government to bring that to fruition."

She described the funding announcement as a "game changing" opportunity for Hawke's Bay to stimulate economic transformation.

Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said HDC also has more applications with the PGF, and this is the first in what she hopes is a series of announcements for Hastings and Hawke's Bay.

"As a council, we are also supporting the private sector with their PGF applications, which will help provide sustainable employment for our community."

She said the funding into Hawke's Bay will lift productivity enhance economic development opportunities, and create sustainable jobs, which will improve lives and wellbeing.

CEO of the Hawke's Bay Chamber of Commerce, Karla Lee, said it would be interesting to see how the initiatives develop and translate into jobs.

"Water is a major concern and Hawke's Bay has been negatively highlighted in the national headlines numerous times.

"Injecting some much needed funds in this area is an excellent outcome for both individuals and the many businesses in Hawke's Bay who require water to operate."