More than $80 million from the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund will boost rural broadband, expand a driver-training centre near Fielding, and look into building a new freight hub near Palmerston North.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones was in the Manawatū-Whanganui today to announce a number of new initiatives, most of which are for Manawatū-Whanganui region.

About half of the funding - $40m - will be used for a new regional freight hub near Palmerston North, a key staging point for domestic, imported and exported freight in the Lower North Island.

About 2.4 million tonnes moved through the current Palmerston North rail facility in the last year, and freight demands are expected to increase by 60 per cent in the next two decades.

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The money will be used by KiwiRail to complete planning and concept design for the hub, and secure land required for the project.

Jones also announced funding across the food and beverage, digital connectivity and tourism sectors in the Manawatū-Whanganui region, including:

• $2.8m to expand the National Driver Training Centre based at Manfeild, near Feilding, to train 700 drivers and machine operators annually
• A $400,000 investment to fund the first stage of an Advanced Aviation Hub at Whanganui Airport
• $100,000 to investigate FoodHQs development to assist food exporters
• $100,000 to assess alternative land utilisation choices in the Tararua District
• $98,000 towards Kaitahi Food & Innovation Factory
• $95,000 towards establishing an education, training and employment programme at the former site of Turakina Māori Girls' College
• $60,000 towards the Tararua Tourism & Trails Strategy
• $50,000 to investigate education to employment pathways within Horowhenua

The projects are subject to funding contracts that will include a range of agreed commercial arrangements, targets, milestones and deliverables.

Funding for the centre at Manfeild will enable the facility to deliver a full suite of driver training, including truck, digger, 4WD, forklift and roller training.

Jones also announced $40m to expand the Rural Broadband Initiative Phase Two (RBI2), the Mobile Black Spot Fund (MBSF), and make broadband connectivity available to every rural marae, home, and business in Manawatū-Whanganui.

The money will also be used for Northland, Bay of Plenty, Tairāwhiti, Hawke's Bay and the West Coast and be implemented by Crown Infrastructure Partners.

It will add to the $105m already allocated to the RBI2/MBSF expansion, which aims to close the connectivity "digital divide" in rural New Zealand.

MBSF aims to deliver new mobile coverage to around 1000km of state highways and more than 100 tourist areas.

The $400,000 investment for the first stage of an Advanced Aviation Hub will be used to develop a business case for an advanced simulation centre.

"A training centre of this kind can support pilots, flight attendants, aeronautical engineers and others to gain the licensing and qualifications needed for modern aircraft," Jones said.

"It will also have major benefits for the economy of the city."

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