Prime Minister John Key has told Northland to "get on yer bike" in the nicest possible way in his first visit back since National lost the seat in the March byelection.
At Opua yesterday, Mr Key, the Minister of Tourism, promised a $3 million boost to the Twin Coast Cycle Trail Pou Herenga Tai.
It is the biggest funding announcement for the region since the government's pledge to double-lane 10 bridges in what was widely called at the time a byelection bribe.
The pre-budget promise means the Far North District Council is only $1.8 million away from the estimated finish line of the two-thirds completed 84km trail. The council is awaiting the outcome of a request to Northland Regional Council's economic development funds-holder, Northland Inc, for a $900,000 lump of that.
The trail passes from Horeke on the Hokianga Harbour to Opua in the Bay of Islands on the east coast. Mr Key said it has the potential to help rejuvenate small Northland towns such as Kawakawa, Kaikohe, Okaihau and Horeke in the same way that towns along the Otago Central Rail Trail have benefited since that trail was opened.
"The Twin Coast Cycle Trail is one of 23 Great Rides across New Zealand, 18 of which are already complete and open and which cover more than 2500km of country," he said.
The national network has been considered Mr Key's baby after he launched the project in 2009 with the objective of creating a high quality tourism asset to boost regional economic growth.
The new operating funding brings the total Government contribution to the Northland trail to $7 million.
Mayor John Carter said the $3 million grant will offset most of the costs needed to complete the Horeke-Okaihau, Kaikohe-Kawakawa and Kawakawa-Taumarere sections of the trail.
The council now had all the agreements it needed with the owners of private land the trail passes over.
Mr Carter also said the council and other stakeholders were looking at the feasibility of putting cycle trails down Northland's west and east coasts, in "a project all Northlanders will benefit from."
Yesterday's funding announcement release gave Mr Key and Green Party MP Russel Norman some play time together at the Opua end of the trail. Mr Key said the Green Party's backing for the national project had been a major factor in its success.
Mr Norman described the new Northland funding as a great opportunity for the region.
"It is great for the North, great for cyclists and we are proud to be here today part of the announcement," he said.
Mr Key was in the Bay of Islands primarily to attend the National Party's first regional conference since the general election last year.
Of the more recent byelection, Mr Key said;
"There are always lessons to be learned in defeat, and we are working together to understand what went wrong and to take those lessons on board."