Last week the Central Hawke's Bay District Council showcased some of its progress to date in rebuilding CHB's post-Covid and drought economy, with a combined launch of three new projects which stand to boost business activity and jobs for the district.

The three projects include a Provincial Growth Funded initiative to improve transport and infrastructure for the communities along the Porangahau-Wimbledon Rd; a Jobs in Central Hawke's Bay initiative, which forms part of a Mayors Taskforce for Jobs pilot programme, and a work redeployment initiative, forged out of more recent PGF funding for vegetation management.

They represent a step forward in the economic recovery of Central Hawke's Bay, says CHB District Council chief executive Monique Davidson.

Nearly 1 per cent of the district's population has sought employment support since March, and while business confidence since reopening from the Covid-19 lockdown has been cautiously optimistic, preparing for the long-term economic and social impacts of both events is a major focus of the Central Hawke's Bay District Council.

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"We've known from the outset we needed a multi-faceted and long-term approach to economic recovery and yesterday's event has allowed us to show Central Hawke's Bay we are standing by our commitment," says Ms Davidson.

"Stimulating economic activity through works programmes and targeted support with regards to employment were identified early on as effective ways to support our communities through this period, so I am really thrilled to see some of these coming to fruition," she says.

The project to upgrade part of a key Central Hawke's Bay thoroughfare, the Porangahau-Wimbledon Rd, was initiated by the district council last year after the announcement of dedicated funding through the Provincial Growth Fund.

After extensive planning over the past 12 months, the project officially launched last week with work to build new retaining walls in Wanstead.

Parliamentary under-secretary for Regional Economic Development Fletcher Tabuteau was in attendance at Thursday's event, returning to launch the project after announcing it last year.

As part of this long-term programme the council will employ multiple local contractors for a number of separate projects.

"Though already in motion before the twin blows of Covid-19 and the prolonged drought, this $20.1m project will prove invaluable in supporting local businesses and therefore employment within our district," says Ms Davidson.

The construction currently employs 37 people, with another 30 expected to be brought on before the project finishes in 2022.

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The Jobs in Central Hawke's Bay project, part of a $100,000 pilot programme initiated as part of a joint partnership between Mayors Taskforce for Jobs (MTFJ) and the Ministry of Social Development, is a targeted approach to creating employment, for youth in particular, through innovative new programmes.

The programme established a series of temporary employment hubs in Waipukurau, Waipawa, Porangahau and Takapau, as well as a mobile employment hub.

The Employment Hubs will help the community to connect with the Ministry of Social Development Services where employees and employers can seek further information, or register to obtain jobs, or an employee. They are manned by a combination of volunteers, Te Taiwhenua o Tamatea, community organisations, Mayors Taskforce for Jobs support staff, and supported by Central Hawke's Bay District Council and the Ministry of Social Development.

Those that visit the hub leave with an employment pack as well as referrals and connections to other support services if needed.

"This initiative stands to break down barriers and help connect our small businesses and our young people – two very important groups within in our communities, alongside all others in our community who are in need of jobs support," says Central Hawke's Bay Mayor Alex Walker.

"It was great to see our new employment pop-up vehicles in action."

The work redeployment programme also aims to utilise a PGF-funded project to support local employment.

"This is about redeploying people into work, safeguarding their employment status in a challenging economic climate," says Ms Davidson. "We have already seen nine employees start work and will see another 24 redeployed by the end of this month."

Ms Davidson says the council is committed to supporting those who have lost their jobs as a result of recent events, back into the workforce.

"It's important to remember this is just the beginning of the council's strategy of navigating economic recovery for the district."

Ms Walker says last week's event is testament to the fact council has started as it means to go on.

"The launch of these three initiatives marks a significant milestone in our journey back to that thriving Central Hawke's Bay district we are all proud to be a part of.

"There is no overnight resolution to the impacts of Covid-19 and the prolonged drought, but the people of Central Hawke's Bay can certainly rest assured we are on the right path."