The Government is investing $36.8 million into waterfront and visitor projects that will help transform Whakatāne and create almost 500 jobs, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones announced today.
The investment in three projects, through the Provincial Growth Fund and the New Zealand Upgrade Programme, will help build the local economy, create hundreds of jobs, attract future investment and unlock tourism and cultural and commercial opportunities across the district, he said.
The investment will support the development of a new commercial boat harbour, revitalisation of the riverfront and town centre, and the development of a new visitor hub and cultural centre.
"These projects are part of the Whakatāne Regeneration Programme jointly developed by Whakatāne District Council and Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa to boost their marine and tourism sectors," Jones said.
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"I'm particularly pleased to make this announcement of Government support for this town and region following the recent Whaakari/White Island tragedy. We back our regions in times of need."
The Boat Harbour Development project will receive a $19.6m PGF investment made up of an equity stake loan and grant. The Whakatāne Riverfront Revitalisation project will receive a $9.6m loan and the Ngāti Awa Kāinga project will receive a $7.6m investment via a Crown equity stake in the development.
"The harbour development will give commercial users in Whakatāne better facilities that will increase the economic returns of the wharf as a critical asset for the local community," Jones said.
"To be situated on a 10.9ha block of Māori freehold land, it will address the need for more berths and offer better protection from the dynamic river environment.
"The Riverfront Revitalisation programme is a vital part of the overall regeneration programme that seeks to establish a world-class, small town destination."
It includes a significant upgrade to the riverfront promenade and the remediation and improved accessibility of the existing town wharf.
"The Kāinga project will see the Whakatāne Army Hall transformed into a visitor hub that will be the focal point for cultural and historical storytelling, retail, and a space for training, meetings and civic events.
"I'm confident these developments will create a sense of vibrancy and optimism in the community, create 453 new direct and indirect jobs by 2030 and provide permanent benefits for the town and the region," Jones said.