There is a buzz around Ōpōtiki.
Increased employment and growing businesses are some of the benefits already being seen through the multi-million dollar project to develop the small Eastern Bay of Plenty district's harbour.
Today, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Economic and Regional Development Minister Stuart Nash joined Whakatōhea iwi, local council members and representatives of the aquaculture and marine industry at a ceremony to celebrate the beginning of the harbour development construction.
Up to July 2020, Ōpōtiki was awarded $117.37 million from the government's Provincial Growth Fund - more than each of Waikato, Southland, Otago, and Canterbury.
That included $79.4 million for the Ōpōtiki Harbour development, $24.85 million for aquaculture development and a mussel processing factory, and $8.8 million for new marine and industrial infrastructure.
"Ōpotiki had done the work, they knew what their aspirations were and they just needed a partner to help develop it," Ardern told media while visiting Te Rere Marae.
"It has always been about the difference that we could make and where the investment has gone, particularly from the Provincial Growth Fund, has been based on those communities where we know it will make the biggest difference.
"It was also for those communities who had plans, who had proposals, who knew what it would take to get a particular project off the ground."
Nash said each of the projects was in partnership with iwi, local government and the commercial sector, which were all co-funding or contributing.
"The community can now celebrate progress on a project that has been a priority for this region for 20 years yet failed to win support in the past," he said.
"The harbour and aquaculture development will unlock the region's potential and drive the local economic recovery.
"The combination of community-led development and government support is building the infrastructure and workforce needed to make sustainable change to the region's economic fortunes. Ōpōtiki has high levels of deprivation and around 44 per cent of people have incomes under $20,000."
Ōpōtiki mayor Lyn Riesterer said the region was already seeing more money being spent in its economy, thanks to the jobs and businesses created by the projects.
"All the projects are under way and the exciting thing for us is we've taken a day to pause and reflect on how far we've come and where we're going," she said.
"To have the ministers here to share that with us is really important because with the government's backing we're working through a lot of locally-led solutions for creating new jobs, new employment and raising the quality of life in the whole of the Ōpōtiki District.
"Our spend is up in our district and we are working really hard to get a lot more people into employment."
Riesterer said all of the projects had taken on Covid-displaced workers, unemployed people and people under 30 being introduced to careers through apprenticeships.
"A lot of the organisations and businesses have had to increase in size so they're taking on more workers and we're moving quite rapidly towards getting things done."
Nash said more than 1225 jobs would be created in the Ōpōtiki District through Provincial Development Unit investment alone.
"Many of the people working on these projects are now moving on to aquaculture-related construction projects and today's event provided an opportunity to celebrate the success of this community investment and its contribution to the town's wider development."