It was symbolism all the way as the politician with the biggest bucket of money got to play with a big bucket of a different kind at Kerikeri Airport.

Shane Jones, the Minister of Regional Growth, could hardly contain his boyish glee this afternoon as he smashed a 13.5 tonne digger's blade through the airport terminal's roof to signal the start of a $4.7 million rebuild.

The Far North Holdings led, Far North District Council backed, project has also gained $1.75 million from the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund Jones has been distributing to kick-start or boost existing economic development opportunities.

Read more: Shane Jones takes to Kerikeri demolition job with gusto - low-flying ducks beware


That injection into the Kerikeri Airport upgrade will pay for a baggage screening area to future-proof the new terminal.

Before confidently smashing the big digger blade into the building — and, much to the amusement of the small crowd, setting off an alarm someone had forgotten to disable — Jones admitted the last time he'd operated a digger ''was years ago, on the farm.''

''You could say we [the Government] are slamming our way into the future,'' he quipped after part of the roof came down.

''I certainly feel a bit of excitement. We're demolishing faded provincial infrastructure and building an archway into the future.''

He said combining the putea [money] of the Far North council and its holdings company with Crown money ''was the right way to go''.

The demolition of the tired and small terminal was watched by members of the ALine construction team, Kipa Munro of Ngāti Rēhia, Far North deputy mayor Tania McInnes, and representatives of Air New Zealand and Far North Holdings.

Earlier Munro pointed out the boundaries of the hapu's territory, with the airport roughly sitting in its centre.

''The design concepts of the new airport terminal will be overlaid with features of significance to the Ngāti Rēhia hapu and Ngāpuhi iwi,'' he said.


Jones added to that motif by saying: ''Once it's here, overlaid with our stories, our international and domestic visitors will understand and appreciate a lot more about this place they have arrived at.''

Far North Holdings director Kevin Baxter said Jones' adventure on the digger marked "the start of a bright new chapter in the story of this district's drive to develop a world-class tourism product.''

It would compete on every level with the very best that Aotearoa has to offer, Baxter said.

The terminal was the first of six "shovel ready" projects championed by Far North Holdings to receive funding from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF), all designed to upgrade key items of infrastructure that underpin the tourism industry and wider economy.