The Forgotten World Highway may be forgotten no more with the announcement of a $400,000 investment as the Government continues doling out its $1 billion-a-year provincial growth fund.
Regional Development Minister Shane Jones announced last week that $20m of the fund would go to Taranaki, backing a broader plan to revitalise its economy with a quarter of that amount set to go to a Cathedral in New Plymouth.
On Friday, Mr Jones, along with Under Secretary Fletcher Tebuteau and Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage today provided details of a new project called Tapuae Roa: Make Way for Taranaki Action Plan.
To create a tourism drawcard, up to $5m will be spent on an upgrade of Taranaki Cathedral in New Plymouth, including displays and guides about the region's history.
"[It] will help transform the cathedral into a tourism attraction that will showcase the sometimes turbulent story of European settlement in Taranaki and the relationship between Maori and Pakeha over 175 years," Mr Jones said.
The work is expected to start in mid 2019 and take about 15 months.
The biggest amount on the list is the $13.3m going to supporting upgrades and the expansion of hiking trails around Mount Taranaki and the National Park.
"The first phase of today's commitment will be a comprehensive investigation of the best ways to promote tourism in the Taranaki region and enhance biodiversity on Taranaki Mounga, and how the proposed crossing tracks fit into that," Jones said.
The region's Forgotten World Highway — SH43 — is also getting a look-in. $400,000 has been allocated to investigating its tourism value ahead of a possible revamp.
The investment into SH43 will occur before a possible multi-million dollar upgrade to the road.
The route, from Stratford to Taumarunui, is a freight route and increasingly popular with tourists, but a 12km stretch through the Tangarakau Gorge remains unsealed.
"SH43 takes you through some wild and beautiful parts of Taranaki, but it's not an easy drive," Jones said.
"This preliminary work will identify the likely economic benefits of an improved SH43, and the costs, and assess how upgrading it can ensure SH43 preserves its character as one of New Zealand's most unique state highways," Shane Jones said.
While earlier studies have investigated sealing the final 12km, this work will also look into improving resilience and safety on SH43, as well as improving signage, road markings and looking at speed management along the route.
Friday's announcement also includes a raft of other feasibility studies. About $500,000 is set aside for reviews.
The funding feeds into a broader plan launched yesterday aimed at diversifying Taranaki's economy beyond its fuel and agricultural sectors. The region itself is expected to chip in another $16m.
What's Taranaki Getting?
* $13m — for the Taranaki Crossing Experience, a proposed series of new hiking tracks and upgrades, including in the National Park.
* $5m — restoration and upgrades of Taranaki Cathedral.
* $400,000 — review into upgrading State Highway 43.
* $250,000 — for a digital tool for farmers to assess viability of tree planting.
* $525,000 — studies into: Maori enterprise in Taranaki, feasibility of creating "innovation precincts", food-related business opportunities, developing a clean energy research centre.