The Government's Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) would provide more than $17 million to help create jobs, address infrastructure deficits, diversify the regional economy and enhance the tourism opportunities that existed in Northland, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones said last week.

The package was part of a $1 billion investment for provinces around the country, part of which Mr Jones released in Gisborne on Friday.

"Northland has enormous untapped potential, and, after years of neglect, I'm looking forward to seeing what the PGF can do in partnership with the region to transform this beautiful part of the country," he said.

"Tourism is a growing sector with far-reaching benefits, but Northland is severely restricted in terms of capacity to keep up with demand and capitalise on the opportunities that tourism presents.

Advertisement

"Northland has higher than average unemployment, so a huge focus for the region is to create sustainable jobs and get more young people into education, training and employment. This Government is committed to doing that, and the PGF can help provide the much-needed investment Northland needs to kick-start this momentum.

"This is just the beginning for Northland, with further announcements expected in the coming weeks," he added.

"Northland has higher than average unemployment, so a huge focus for the region is to create sustainable jobs and get more young people into education, training and employment."

The package released on Friday comprised support for cultural centres in Opononi and Whangarei, $450,000 towards pilot to explore the potential of totara to boost the forest industry, a tourism hub in Kawakawa, and the building of a roundabout on the intersection of SH10/Waipapa Rd (Millions for a roundabout, February 22).

The two-year pilot to test the validity of establishing a totara wood industry in Northland had the potential to exploit what Mr Jones said was an underutilised resource.

"Despite its economic potential and the abundant supply of it in Northland, the industry has faced a number of barriers preventing the establishment of a market.

"The pilot will investigate whether these barriers are surmountable, and, if they are, will facilitate the development of a new industry with multimillion-dollar potential."

Research indicated that the industry had the potential to produce $7.5m of timber per year within three years, equating to 20 direct jobs and almost 80 indirect jobs. If the timber was processed into higher-value products its potential rose to $60m, 200 direct jobs and 1750 indirect jobs.

The tourism hub, to be built in the centre of Kawakawa, which had been allocated $2.3m, would also create jobs and boost economic development opportunities. Kawakawa had the potential to leverage off well-established tourism offerings like the Twin Coast Cycle Trail, the Twin Coast Discovery Highway and the cruise ship market, but there was a critical need to improve infrastructure to meet existing visitor needs and expectations.

Advertisement

The funding would allow Kawakawa to build a visitor, arts, culture and environment centre, to draw people into the centre of the town, and improved infrastructure including toilets, car parking, tourist information, shared public spaces and a public library. Strong iwi, local business and community support had been key to funding the project, a feasibility study predicting increased indirect spending of $1.75m per annum.

Meanwhile, Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis announced that up to $4.6m would go towards a new cultural tourism experience in Opononi. The Manea Footprints of Kupe Cultural Heritage and Education Centre would create up to 14 fulltime jobs, and would provide additional tourism opportunities for the west coast.

The "world-class" centre, part of the Tai Tokerau Northland Economic Action Plan launched in 2016, would celebrate Kupe's voyage to Hokianga and his journeys across Aotearoa, presenting and preserving 1000 years of Maori history, telling how New Zealand came to be inhabited by humans and showcasing the local culture and places of historical significance with a combination of guided tours, interactive performances and technology stations, complemented by taonga repatriated from various museums.

"There is immense opportunity for Maori to develop tourism businesses around their culture, history and stories. Manea Footprints of Kupe is an important part of that offering to visitors," Mr Davis said.

"Culturally this project is considered nationally significant, and will play a role in retaining Maori identity and celebrating our past. It will also serve as an educational resource in local schools, giving our tamariki a sense of place and inclusion."