Throughout New Zealand, communities have great ideas about their region's development.
Under Jacinda Ardern's leadership, the Government has a plan to back those ideas to make a difference for New Zealand's regions.
The Government's new Provincial Growth Fund is set to invest $3 billion over three years in projects that will realise the untapped potential of our regions.
The first allocations include $62 million for forestry, tourism, rail, and roading projects. Around 800 jobs will be created thanks to these investments.
These initial investments will be in Northland, Tairāwhiti-East Coast, Hawke's Bay and Manawatū-Whanganui and the West Coast of the South Island. Projects in other regions will be announced over the coming months.
This will help with jobs, infrastructure and business opportunities, but that's not the biggest issue. This programme has the potential to change towns and, most importantly, to change lives.
As I have said, it's a red-letter day for the people of Tairāwhiti and Hawkes Bay, who will be delighted with the initial $9.2m the Government will spend immediately in our region.
The Provincial Growth Fund is important for all New Zealand because most of our exports – including almost all New Zealand's farming, forestry, and fisheries income - come from the regions.
For nine years National neglected our regions, leaving them to languish without support.
For example, rather than reopen the Napier-Wairoa rail line after a slip blocked it in 2012, they let the line stay closed.
That meant more trucks on the highway, adding to potholes and increasing the risk of accidents, as well as putting more costs on the businesses that used the line and adding to climate pollution.
The Government is going to change that. The Provincial Growth Fund will invest $5m to reopen the Napier-Wairoa line by the end of the year.
That will take about 6000 truck journeys a year off the road, which is good for people on the roads, the roads themselves, and the environment. And as the wood harvest increases over the coming decade, the rail will be there to carry it.
Making these investments up front is how we can build more prosperous communities in the years to come.
We will invest in the regions in the way that they deserve, to support them see their ideas become a reality.
The Provincial Growth Fund is just part of that story. The Government is delivering across so many other areas, too.
We're also investing in education so young people will have the skills to succeed.
We're building starter homes for first-home buyers, and more state houses for people in need, so families can have secure, healthy places to live.
We're recruiting 1800 more police, so we can prevent crime before it happens.
We're improving health services so we can treat illness earlier and keep our people healthier.
In all this spending it is the people of Tairāwhiti and Hawkes Bay who will really benefit. The billion-tree planting scheme alone will give smaller Māori land owners the chance to set up nurseries for the millions of native trees that are going to be planted.
The Prime Minister has said her goal is to build a better, fairer New Zealand for everyone. Initiatives like the Provincial Growth Fund are a great way to achieve that goal.
This is the opinion of the writer not Hawke's Bay Today.
Hon Meka Whaitiri is the MP for Ikaroa-Rawhiti, Minister of Customs and Associate Minister of Agriculture, Local Government and Crown/Māori Relations.