A boost of $46 million for Northland announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern today will be a game changer for the region, with jobs, housing, transport and cultural and tourism attractions getting money.
Ardern was at low decile Te Kura o Otangārei School in Whangārei this morning to announce some of the Government's spending plans for the $46 million Northland package.
The Prime Minister is in Northland today alongside Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis, Housing and Transport Minister Phil Twyford, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones, Maori Economic Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Employment Minister Willie Jackson.
There's $20 million for projects that create jobs; $9.9 million to support a cultural and tourism attraction (with $6.9m for the Hundertwasser Arts Centre); $8.7 million in social and state housing projects; $6.2 million for transport business cases and $500,000 to investigate rail opportunities in Northland.
"I'm delighted to be back in Northland with so many of my colleagues today to announce initiatives that will enhance Northland's economy, create jobs, and promote healthy communities," Ardern said at Otangarei.
"At Waitangi earlier this year I promised to work with in partnership with Māori around the country to address inequalities and create a sustainable future. These partnerships in Northland are part of this work. The Tai Tokerau Northland Economic Action plan has contributed to bringing down Northland's unemployment rate to 5.8 per cent from 8.0 per cent in the March 2017 quarter.
"The region is on the right track, but there is still more work to be done and this Government will continue to work hard and form genuine partnerships to further support Northland's growth."
Some of the money would be spent in the Otangārei neighbourhood on a papakāinga-style state housing project.
Ardern was welcomed onto the school by a rousing version of Hallelujah sung in Māori by children from the kura, which delighted the heavily pregnant PM.
She thanked the children for their "beautiful" waiata, but she wasn't the only one impressed.
''I know when it's a good [welcome] because I get kicked like crazy, and I really got kicked during that one."
Twyford and Mahuta announced Government investment of $8.7 million in housing initiatives in Whangārei, Kaikohe and Kaitāia.
A new four-unit transitional housing development will be built in Ōtangarei.
"The Government is committed to increasing the number of homes available in Northland, and across New Zealand to tackle homelessness and make sure all New Zealanders have access to housing," Twyford said.
Mahuta said warm, dry and safe housing is vital for the future of whānau development.
"The new Ōtangarei Papakāinga Ltd (OPL) development will provide transitional homes for up to 16 Northland families a year, while they receive support to secure a longer-term place to live and rebuild their futures," Mahuta said.
Mahuta also announced an innovative trial that will be brought to Kaitāia to assist low-income whānau to move toward owning their own homes.
"We are also supporting He Korowai Trust's project to test an affordable rent-to-own home ownership model that enables whānau to not just put a roof over their heads, but eventually own it.
"All these initiatives showcase the success that is possible when Government, rōpū and the wider community can work together and combine expertise and resources to build homes to shelter whanau," Mahuta said.
OPL will develop the fit for purpose transitional housing papakāinga. The plan draws on the concept of traditional village living.
As well as bricks and mortar, the concept supports whanau and social development, based on 'It takes a village to raise a child' and 'It takes a papakāinga to support a whānau', OPL chief executive Martin Kaipo said.
"Safe secure housing is the priority. However we believe it is simply not enough to provide somewhere to live; whānau in urgent need of social housing tend to require a range of support in a number of areas."
The $46 million investment reaffirms the government's commitment to the region's economic development and its people, Northland Inc chairwoman Karleen Everitt said.
"The government has identified an eclectic and diverse group of very worthy projects in this tranche of provincial growth funding," Everitt said.
There would be real benefits for the health of Northland communities as well the region's economic development, she said.
The new investment into the Hundertwasser Arts Centre with Wairau Māori Art Gallery is a significant boost to the project, Whangārei Art Museum Trust chairman Grant Faber said.
The trust is the funding entity, construction client and the eventual operator of the art centre.
"We are delighted the Government sees the value in helping us create what will not only be a world-class and iconic facility for Whangārei, but for the entire country," Faber said.
"The project has had such enormous support from people here in our city and throughout Northland and today's generous contribution means we're that much closer to making it happen."
He said the new centre is expected to attract as many as 202,000 visitors a year and help create more than 30 full-time jobs, plus 60 more during the two-year construction.
"The direct economic impact of the project will soon be realised and will reach well beyond the tourism sector," Northland Inc CEO David Wilson said.
A total of $9.94 million has been pledged from the Provincial Growth Fund for the centre, and $6.94 million new funding and $3 million had been pledged to the project by central government in June 2017. The total construction cost of the centre is $26 million, more than half of which has been raised by the community.
Faber said the new funding covers construction cost inflation, increased contingency provision and design changes, as well as a significant portion of the pre-opening operational expenses that could not be included in the original capital fundraising drive.