The Provincial Growth Fund is partnering with Eastern Bay of Plenty landowners to accelerate the development of horticulture.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones announced today the plan to team with landowners and the opportunity to create year-round employment for up to 175 people over three years.

The Te Kaha Landowners Group will receive a $370,000 grant in the first instance and, subject to the successful outcome of planning work, the Provincial Growth Fund had committed to investing up to $13 million to see the project become a reality.

"This is an ambitious programme which includes the development of a water distribution network to enable the expansion of 100 hectares of a high-value kiwifruit orchard on Māori owned land and a trial nursery," said Jones.

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The investment will accelerate a skills, training and employment programme to ensure an upskilled and work-ready workforce was ready to fill the jobs created.

"The Eastern Bay of Plenty is home to some of New Zealand's most isolated communities and represents some of the most challenging areas of rural deprivation. Full-time employment has not been readily available for most whānau in these regions for generations."

He said the living wage trial will annualise wages for horticulture workers across the whole year and could be utilised by the wider horticulture sector.

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