An Alexandra satellite research centre could be operational by mid-next year.

Minister for Science and Innovation Steven Joyce yesterday announced a grant of up to $14.7 million over four years for the Centre for Space Science Technology.

Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan called the announcement a "game changer" for Alexandra and Central Otago, and said the centre, which would boost the Alexandra economy by an estimated $2.8m to $3.6m yearly in its first three years, was "up next to the gold rush".

The centre will be based in Alexandra, with offices in Dunedin, New Plymouth and Lincoln and will create about 70 to 80 jobs, half of which will be based in Alexandra.


Part of the proposition is to launch New Zealand's first satellites into space, likely through Auckland-based company Rocket Lab.

A date for that was uncertain, but would not happen for a few years, said Greg Bodeker, director of research company Bodeker Scientific, which led the group that applied for the funding.

The centre will work alongside New Zealand industries to provide tailored information, at first using data from existing international satellites, then eventually from those it builds and owns.

Research areas will include irrigation and agriculture, snow and ice, oceans and atmosphere, regional planning and hazard management, data telemetry and forestry.

The centre is being funded through the Regional Research Institutes scheme.