The man charged with making the provinces grow has been doing a bit of destruction in Northland as well.

It was symbolism all the way as the politician with the biggest bucket of money got to play with a bucket of a different kind at Kerikeri Airport.

Shane Jones, the Minister of Regional Growth, could hardly contain his boyish glee yesterday afternoon as he smashed a 13.5 tonne digger's bucket through the airport terminal roof to signal the start of the facility's $4.7 million rebuild.

The Far North Holdings-led, Far North District Council backed project also gained $1.75m from the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) Jones has been distributing to kick-start or boost existing economic development opportunities.


That injection into the Kerikeri Airport upgrade will pay for a baggage screening area to future-proof the new terminal, should that become a New Zealand air authorities' regulation.

Before confidently smashing the big blade into the building — much to the amusement of the small crowd, setting off an alarm someone had forgotten to disable - Jones admitted the last time he'd operated a digger ''was years ago, on the farm''.

''You could say we [the Government] are slamming our way into the future,'' he quipped after smashing part of the roof down.

''I certainly feel a bit of excitement. We're demolishing faded provincial infrastructure and building an archway into the future.''

Jones said the digger was a symbol of his desire to ''dig a provincial wishing well''.

Combining the pūtea [money] of the Far North council and its holdings company with Crown money ''was the right way to go'', he said.

The demolition of the tired and small terminal was watched by members of the ALine construction team, Kipa Munro of Ngāti Rēhia, Far North deputy mayor Tania McInnes, and representatives of Air New Zealand and Far North Holdings (FNH).

Munro named the boundaries of the hapu's territory, with the airport roughly sitting in its centre.


''The design concepts of the new airport terminal will be overlaid with features of significance to the Ngāti Rēhia hapu and Ngāpuhi iwi,'' he said.

Jones added to the motif by saying: ''Once it's here, overlaid with our stories, our international and domestic visitors will understand and appreciate a lot more about this place they have arrived at.''

Work is expected to be complete in December this year.

It was at the same airport only two months earlier, accompanied by deputy prime minister Winston Peters when the PGF funding for the terminal was announced, that Jones attacked Air New Zealand for making too many cuts to services to the provinces.

Yesterday he said FNH bosses had reminded him Air NZ also came to the party with the Kerikeri terminal upgrade.

Looking not the slightest bit chastised, Jones said: ''When the opportunity of shooting a low flying corporate duck comes along, I take it.''

FNH director Kevin Baxter said Jones' adventure on the digger marked the start of a bright new chapter in the story of the Far North's drive to develop world-class tourism.

The terminal was the first of six "shovel ready" FNH projects to receive PGF money.
The projects were all designed to upgrade key items of infrastructure that underpin the tourism industry and wider economy, Baxter said.