Bay of Plenty roading projects will benefit from a $12 million-plus cash injection into the region as part of the Provincial Growth Fund that will help create nearly 300 local jobs.
Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones has today announced the Provincial Growth Fund is providing $60m to councils and KiwiRail to create employment for local workers.
The fund is made up of $27.2m for local roading projects, $26m for rail projects and nearly $6.8m for the Ministry of Social Development to support workers into training to take up these jobs.
It means work can start almost immediately on improving roads, cycleways, tree maintenance and water projects in seven regions. That includes the Bay of Plenty, the West Coast, Manawatu-Whanganui, Wairarapa, Taranaki, top of the South Island and Waikato.
The Bay of Plenty will receive $12.55m for footpaths, the Motu cycleway extension, a horse trail, tree and pest removal, track and park maintenance, water projects and roading. It is expected to create 291 jobs for the region.
Jones said the funding announcement meant at least 800 New Zealanders most in need of employment due to the economic effects of Covid-19 could be employed in their own communities.
"Workers throughout New Zealand have been significantly impacted by the economic impacts of Covid-19," he said.
"This latest investment is in addition to the $100m earmarked for worker redeployment, of which $28m has already been allocated to Tairawhiti, $6.2m nationally for forestry workers, and $36.7m to other regions hard hit by the effects of Covid-19."
The $26m rail investment means work can start early next month on culvert clearing and drainage improvements on regional railway lines. KiwiRail will be working with the Ministry of Social Development to take on and train new regional rail workers.
"Our aim is to put in place measures to soften the impact on workers and businesses in some of the most affected areas, and in sectors where jobs have been lost and most in need of support," Jones said.
"The local councils and KiwiRail projects are providing vital support to regional economies as the PGF refocuses on projects that will provide immediate jobs, can start immediately and have high visibility to boost public confidence in the economic recovery."
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said councils played an important role in stimulating local economies by delivering projects and facilitating and enabling collaboration.
However, she said, councils needed Government investment to help make it happen.
"Rotorua Lakes Council had received $1.1m from a recent Government allocation for rural roadside work that will provide work for about 25 locals who have lost jobs as a result of Covid-19.
"The work will be contracted to council's InfraCore CCO, which will work with the Ministry for Social Development on redeployment.
"This latest allocation is another opportunity to provide work for contractors and create jobs in the Bay of Plenty, and will be welcomed as our districts continue to feel the impact of Covid-19."
Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Bryce Heard said he was eager to see what the details were.
"All I can say is watch this space with interest to see what the details are. But it sounds great," he said. "There is demand around for some big projects..."
Tauranga mayor Tenby Powell said he was "very supportive" of the initiative.
"I think the concept of redeployment is a very real issue that we have to face up to and I'm pleased to see Government acting so quickly to do exactly that.
"Given the level of unemployment so far - it's expected to be around 10 per cent and let's hope it's no more than that - having people retrain and work in areas that the country needs, to be able to pivot into those new jobs, I think is a very good initiative.
"I like the fact that it's split between roading and rail. I think it's a good thing. From a Western Bay of Plenty perspective, roading is probably our single biggest issue."
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley said it might possibly be the start of the ramp-up of the infrastructure programme over the next five years.
"It is at its early stages and it is good to be able to have jobs instantly and to have people in work now and to be gradually build up to our rather large infrastructure programme over the next few years."
The package announced today consists of
ROADING PROJECTS TOTAL $27.215 million
· Bay of Plenty – $12.55 million for footpaths, the Motu cycleway extension, a horse trail, tree and pest removal, track and park maintenance, water projects and roading (291 jobs)
Ōpōtiki District Council
Coastal footpaths (4km)
Motu Cycleway extensions x3
Ōpōtiki Horse Trail
Ōpōtiki Footpaths (29km - all Ōpōtiki footpaths)
Whakatane District Council
Bunyan Rd Seal Extension
Parks and reserves maintenance, enhancement and nursery
Various 3 waters projects
Wainui Rd/Harrison Rd Intersection - construct a right turn bay
Wainui Rd/Stanley intersection - construct a right turn bay
Whakatane Airport water main upgrade
Wilding tree and pest plant removal within the road reserve
BOP Regional Council
Removal of wilding trees along rivers
Track maintenance, shore cleaning, wilding pine control
RAIL PROJECTS TOTAL $26 MILLION
·Projects include drain and culvert condition surveys, culvert cleaning and maintenance, vegetation control and drainage renewals and improvements.
·The work will take place around rail lines from the Waikato to Wairarapa, and in Canterbury, West Coast and Otago-Southland.
·The investment will create work for 200 people, including new rail trainees, local regional contractors, and redeployed KiwiRail staff.