Ōpōtiki is getting a new harbour and 1850 new jobs will be created in the eastern Bay of Plenty because of it.

The region is the big winner in a new round of regional services funding announced this morning by Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones.

Ōpōtiki's harbour has treacherous sandbanks and is currently unusable by most ships. It will receive $79.4 million towards redevelopment, to make it safe and fit for purpose for the seafood industry.

Aerial view of Opotiki harbour. Photo / supplied
Aerial view of Opotiki harbour. Photo / supplied

Jones said of the 1850 jobs this would create, 730 would be in Ōpōtiki itself.
He made the announcement in his speech to the first conference called by the new Infrastructure Commission, now known as Infracom, which is being held in Auckland today.

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Conceptual image of Opotiki harbour development, which will now be funded by the new NZ Upgrade Programme. Photo / supplied
Conceptual image of Opotiki harbour development, which will now be funded by the new NZ Upgrade Programme. Photo / supplied

"Building a new harbour to support the growth of aquaculture is the biggest transformational investment the Provincial Growth Fund has made to date," he said.

"World demand for sustainable seafood is increasing rapidly and large scale aquaculture requires a safe, accessible harbour for harvesting produce and servicing boats. Today's announcement will provide safe access for more boats into the harbour, allowing Ōpōtiki to become a major servicing base for aquaculture and other marine related industries."

Jones named mussel farming as one of the beneficiaries of the development. He said it would be "the catalyst for private investment in marine related industries, wharves and a residential development".

Jones announced a package of $190m in spending, as part of the $300m earmarked for the regions in the Government's new $12 billion infrastructure programme.

Technically, the money does not come from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF), but instead is part of a new spending initiative called the NZ Upgrade Programme. It will be administered by the Provincial Development Unit, a division of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment which also runs the PGF.

"This funding boost has allowed us to get projects under way that may not have been an exact fit with the Provincial Growth Fund criteria but were worthy investments nonetheless," said Jones.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters (left) with Regional Development Minister Shane Jones at the powhiri on the Treaty Grounds at Waitangi this year. Photo / John Stone
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters (left) with Regional Development Minister Shane Jones at the powhiri on the Treaty Grounds at Waitangi this year. Photo / John Stone

Milford, in Fiordland, scene of devastating road and track washouts earlier this month, is another beneficiary of the new programme.

Jones said he was "pleased to announce that we'll be investing $13 million to improve digital and air connectivity to Fiordland".

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The money will be spent on the Milford Aerodrome, which the Ministry of Transport says needs repairs to keep it operational, and a series of mobile phone towers. This is on top of a $45m internet connectivity programme allocated to the West Coast and Southland in June last year.

The Upgrade Programme funding announced today covers 18 different projects, in regions including Northland, Bay of Plenty, Hawke's Bay, Taranaki, Otago, West Coast, Canterbury and Southland.

About a quarter of the money, $46.7m, has been allocated to the South Island.

Half the money, $88.2m, will be spent on roads. That includes $6m for a roundabout at the State Highway One turnoff to Kawakawa, $13.5m on improvements to the Forgotten World Highway from Stratford to Taumarunui, and $13m on State Highway 2 improvements in Hawke's Bay.

The Infracom conference is billed as the first step to working out how well infrastructure sectors are managing.

"We really want to understand why some sectors perform better than others," said Infracom board chair Dr Alan Bollard yesterday. "We will gather information from territorial local authorities, government departments, Crown entities, State-owned enterprises and other infrastructure providers."

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In the coming months, Infracom will be looking at the Resource Management Act, infrastructure funding and financing, reform of the "three waters" (wastewater, stormwater and drinking water), the Auckland light rail proposal and the Urban Development Bill.

Shane Jones (right), with Wayne Brown (left), chair of the working group that proposed moving Auckland port operations to Northland, with local businessman Barry Trass. Photo / Tania Whyte
Shane Jones (right), with Wayne Brown (left), chair of the working group that proposed moving Auckland port operations to Northland, with local businessman Barry Trass. Photo / Tania Whyte

The Government has also asked Infracom to look at the port sector and provide an independent view of the proposal to move Auckland port operations to Northport and Tauranga. It is also managing a wholesale review of the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model.

Speakers at the conference today include entrepreneur and digital strategist Melissa Clark-Reynolds, Kiwirail chief executive Greg Miller, the CEO of Infrastructure Victoria, Michael Masson, leading Ngāti Whātua executive Rangimarie Hunia, and a Silicon Valley "futurist", Jaap Suermondt, whose expertise is in data science and the Internet of Things.