Transport infrastructure in Northland's smallest district has gone from '''zero to hero'' after news Kaipara will receive a $27 million investment package from the Provincial Growth Fund ($20m) and National Land Transport Fund ($7m).
Northland will also benefit from a $100m contestable fund for Māori landowners throughout the country to develop investment-ready land that will in turn create jobs.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, with several senior ministers in tow, made the announcement at the Otamatea Marae in Kaipara yesterday before their re-gathering at Waitangi Day celebrations this week.
Given the size of the investment in the small, struggling district, there was an air of excitement amongst the big crowd that turned up on an overcast breezy day.
Among them were Māori, civic and business leaders, locals and whānau, and the host of politicians.
Prime Minister Ardern was escorted to a church service by the Omeka Reo, a combination of local Ratana bands, before everyone moved to the marae for the funding announcement.
Kaipara Mayor Jason Smith said it was great news for the district.
"It's a very significant day for Kaipara. The most significant announcement we're had in this district for many, many years and [through] the PGF, we've gone from zero to hero."
He said his council was focused on important things such as roads, building a wharf network and food industries.
Funding applications for more projects throughout Kaipara were in the pipeline but yesterday's announcement was a good start, Smith said.
Regional Development Minister and Northland list MP Shane Jones said the $20m from the PGF had been a long time coming for Kaipara. He said although the Kaipara District Council has been beset by administrative woes, it had made a good case for funding.
Much of that case involved roading and bridge upgrades and feasibility studies for other transport networks, such as ferries.
"Waipoua Rd is screaming out for attention at a time when we're trying to promote better tourism, Pouto Rd has been waiting for the love since Peter Fraser was the Labour prime minister and obviously the analysis as to whether there can be a car ferry service from Pouto to Helensville needs a great deal of engineering work,'' Jones said.
"The desire to invest in jetties is to open up the Kaipara Harbour to more commercial, recreational and customary users and I salute the mayor of Kaipara for bringing those ideas forward."
Roads will receive the lions' share, or $14.4m of the Kaipara funding.
Of that, $5m is for extending the sealed portion of Pouto Rd, $4.95m towards investigating wharves and water transport in Kaipara Harbour, $3.15m for re-metalling rural roads and $3.13m for the Pouto Rd sealing phase two.
A further $1.6m will go towards improving safety and access on Waipoua River Rd, $1.3m to help the council deliver the investment programme and just over $200,000 to upgrade bridges and roads to allow larger vehicles to use them.
The National Land Transport Fund will contribute $4.9m on top of the $20.3m towards infrastructure to benefit food and horticulture sectors in Kaipara.
The government has allocated $980,000 to develop potentially 50,000 hectares of fertile land into horticulture.
A reliable transport network was important to achieving growth and resilience in Northland, from primary industry to tourism, Jones said.
On the $100m PGF Whenua Māori allocation, Jones said he genuinely believed it would stimulate productivity from within isolated Māori land blocks which didn't enjoy the status of treaty settlement.
"I hope the Maori landowners in Northland will make the most of this opportunity. This is putea [funding] for the forgotten Māori landowners."
The $100m allocation will be used to provide loans and grants for investment-ready projects that will lift the productivity of Māori land.
Landowners can apply for funding through the PGF, with Provincial Development Unit, Ministry of Primary Industries and Te Puni Kōkiri support in developing the applications.