Bay of Islands transport and tourism infrastructure is the big winner in the latest spend-up from the Government's Provincial Growth Fund, with close to $7 million promised for wharf and airport upgrades.
The announcements were made on Friday by Regional Development Minister Shane Jones and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, first at Bay of Islands Airport in Kerikeri — which will receive $1.75m towards a $4.75m expansion — then at Paihia wharf, which is in for a $3m makeover.
Wharves at Russell and Opua will get $1.11m for an upgrade and $890,000 for a new pontoon, respectively.
Mr Jones, who had to shout above taxiing aircraft to be heard, said Kerikeri had one of the fastest growing regional airports in the country and an upgrade was "desperately needed".
Passenger numbers had gone from 60,000 a year to about 100,000 in four years, forcing Air New Zealand to put on extra flights.
Mr Jones said Northland had benefited from the Provincial Growth Fund, totalling $3 billion over three years, because it was "shovel ready" with much of the groundwork already done when the fund was launched.
All four projects benefiting from Friday's funding are driven by Far North Holdings, (FNH) the commercial arm of the Far North District Council.
FNH CEO Andy Nock said the new airport terminal, with a larger departures area and under-cover baggage reclaim, would have gone ahead even without government funding.
The difference was that it could now be future-proofed, for example with a luggage screening area, so ratepayers wouldn't have to fork out again in future when the next expansion was required.
Two hangars and the aeroclub building are being converted into a temporary terminal while the new one is built. Construction is due to start next month.
Mr Peters said the new terminal was not an indulgence but a critical piece of infrastructure.
"We politicians are often accused of being fast on the lip and slow on the hip, well that's changed. Today we're going to put our money where our mouth is."
Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis said one of the aims of the spend-up was to ensure the less-visited regions got a bigger slice of the tourism pie.
"We believe the regions have been neglected for way too long," he said.
The almost $3m for Paihia wharf will allow the walkway to be widened, and a dinghy dock, two more pontoons and a sewage pump added.
Mr Nock said the wharf was used by 1.3 million people a year, making it one of the busiest in the country. The Far North had a small ratepayer base and a lot of infrastructure to maintain so the growth fund was a rare chance to carry out some overhauls.
"So many governments talk about Northland but don't deliver. It's fantastic to get this investment," Mr Nock said.
Tourism operator and Focus Paihia chairman Grant Harnish said the current wharf was dilapidated and had a whole raft of problems. An upgrade would make a phenomenal difference, he said.
The Opua funding will pay for a 120m-long pontoon which, among other things, will be used for next year's 250th anniversary commemorations of Cook's visit.