More of Shane Jones' ''putea'' has come to Northland even as the beleaguered Regional Economic Development Minister faces accusations of being too generous to his home region.

In total, following yesterday's announcements, $104.4m from the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) has come to Northland.

Two developments on opposite sides of the Hatea River in Whangārei will benefit from more than $2 million from the PGF that Jones oversees.

Tourism Minister and Tai Tokerau MP, Kelvin Davis revealed the Whangārei funding yesterday morning and later announced a $2.8 million boost for three Mid-North projects. [See sidebox]


A $1.3 million ''investment'' has been given toward a feasibility study/business case for a much-touted hotel on Riverside Drive and $750,000 for a rolling ball clock to be built adjacent to Claphams National Clock Museum in the Town Basin.

Both grants were announced at the site of the $200 million-plus proposed hotel and entertainment centre which, when built, will be managed by the developers' ''partner'', Accor Hotels.

What the Riverside hotel and entertainment centre could look like.
What the Riverside hotel and entertainment centre could look like.

Davis said the hotel would inject an estimated $7.75 million per year into the Whangārei economy and provide upwards of 100 jobs.

Northland had missed out on development support in the past and was now behind in the ability to capitalise on or be ready for tourism growth, he said. The new PGF investment would go toward more people visiting Whangārei, staying longer and spending more.

The projects will add to the mix of existing and planned attractions, he said - including the Hatea River and walkway, the Town Basin park, retail and cafe precinct, the clock museum and Hundertwasser Arts Centre, Hihiaua Māori cultural complex, the mountain Parihaka, the harbour and coast.

''When tourists leave Whangārei they'll know they have experienced something special.''

The $1.3m was warmly applauded by a well-heeled crowd, including Hundertwasser Art Centre supporters and backers, local politicians, tourism operators and developers.

The setting could not have better enhanced the project — on a sparkling morning with the river and marina in the background and a stream of people passing by on the popular Hatea Loop walkway.


Earlier, Whangārei mayor Sheryl Mai had welcomed everyone, ''On this glorious day in beautiful Whangārei.''

Mai said the news was the culmination of countless hours of work behind the scenes to make Tai Tokerau ready for investment. ''And we're gagging for it!''

The Whangārei hotel build is driven by Northland Development Corporation (NDC).

''We truly believe these projects [will] promote Whangārei as the gateway to Northland,'' an NDC director, Ben Tomason said.

Much of the feasibility study had already been done and the project ''de-risked'' and, best case scenario, an Accord Hotel could be in place in 2021, he said.

About Time project members with a model they built in 2016 of a rolling ball clock.
About Time project members with a model they built in 2016 of a rolling ball clock.

The $750,000 grant will cover the cost of a six metre long rolling ball timepiece a group of enthusiastic ''time travellers'' have worked toward creating for 10 years.

The About Time clock will be a world unique, kinetic, time measuring sculpture, with 35 balls speeding around to reveal the physics of the movement of time, Warren Thomas said.

If all the balls line up, the group hopes About Time will be rolling by June 22, during Matariki, next year.

Whangārei District Council will provide the pocket of land for it beside the clock museum.

Ngawha Springs is to get a a $1.9m facelift.
Ngawha Springs is to get a a $1.9m facelift.

Unlocking Mid-North's potential

The current Government is going to unlock the neglected Mid-North's potential through the PGF, Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis has promised.

The charmingly shabby Te Waiariki Ngawha Springs has been given $1.79 million for a revamp.

Davis said that use of the thermal pools increased from 22,000 visitors in 2015 to more than 40,000 in 2017 — ''with no active marketing.''

"This project has the potential to further build the Mid-North's total visitor market and provide employment for up to 30 people, while delivering benefits to the local community through enhancing an important local landmark.''

The hot springs reputedly have therapeutic properties.

The Parahirahi C1 Trust is the kaitiaki (guardian) of springs on trust-owned land and adjacent ones on Crown land.

The same Ngawha geothermal field also fuels Top Energy's nearby power station.

The proximity of cheap power has influenced the funding of $890,000 of PGF money to evaluate the potential for ''an innovation and enterprise park'' on 165 hectares near the Ngawha turn-off on State Highway 12, 5km east of Kaikohe.

''This will be an actively managed hub that will bring together complementary activities [and] will support training and pathways to employment for locals.''

Last year in March, Far North District Council committed $5 million toward the industrial park, describing it as a "once in a lifetime opportunity" to boost local employment.

The council-owned company Far North Holdings (FNH) was to use the money to buy a dairy farm where the facility would be built.

FNH chief executive Andy Nock said at the time he could not guarantee the scheme would attract new businesses to Kaikohe, ''but the stars are aligned like never before''.

The ''stars' alignment'' was always dependent on getting PGF support.

The third PGF grant is $178,000 for a business case for Te Pu o Te Wheke - The Heart of Ngāpuhi, a community, cultural and tourism hub to revive Kaikohe's main centre.

It is called Te Pu o Te Wheke (The Heart of the Octopus) because Kaikohe is at the centre of the many arms of Ngapuhi.