A $38 million Government loan has put a Rotorua spa development - threatened by Covid-19 - back on schedule.
The allocation for the Wai Ariki Hot Springs & Spa development announced yesterday was part of $139.5m of central government money confirmed for the Bay of Plenty, $62m of which was for Rotorua.
Pukeroa Oruawhata Group chairman Malcolm Short said the impact of the coronavirus pandemic meant the group was "looking at having to defer the [Wai Ariki] project for at least two years".
He said the new money would allow the construction of the 5000sq m spa complex on the lakefront to start in the next two to three months.
The development is expected to bring 230 to 280 design and construction jobs to Rotorua and up to 180 permanent jobs when the facility opens.
"Our vision is for the re-establishment of Rotorua as the spa capital of the Southern
Hemisphere," Short said.
Pukeroa Oruawhata's deputy chairman David Tapsell said the development was always intended for "a very strong domestic clientele, being based within a three-hour drive from 55 per cent of our national population".
He said training for the new spa jobs was now a priority, and the group was working closely with Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology, which offers an NZQZ Level 5 qualification in spa therapy.
The Tāheke Geothermal Power Station project was also given an $11.9m loan for Eastland and Tāheke 8C to build an exploratory geothermal well.
This is expected to create 190 jobs, and to be the first step to building a power station using geothermal resources below Tāheke 8C shareholders' land.
'Well-overdue': $5m redevelopment for Kaingaroa Village
Millions poured into Ōpōtiki will create more than 400 jobs
The Government also announced $11m for the construction of a new ambulance hub for St John in Rotorua, led by P&B Consultants.
It will include modern facilities, training areas, staff amenities, facilities and offices and is expected to create 120 jobs.
St John Ambulance assistant director of operations Stuart Cockburn said staff appreciated that a new ambulance station was on the way "sooner than initially planned".
However, he said the announcement didn't change St John's overall funding position.
"In June, we announced a $30m cost-saving programme, to offset our increasingly large deficit."
The Ministry of Health and ACC fund 72 per cent of the emergency ambulance service.
Cockburn said St John faced "significant challenges" nationally relying on "the goodwill of the public to donate".
The Government distributions for Rotorua also included a $1m grant for a "cultural overlay" of the Lakefront Redevelopment.
This is expected to provide employment for local artists to create carved pou and information panels.
Finally, $372,420 in funding was confirmed for renovations at Waitetī Marae, also including carving work.
Marae chairman Wally Haumaha told the Rotorua Daily Post Weekend the marae was one of Te Arawa's "most beautiful".
The tipuna whare is 110 years old.
"We've gone through extensive renovations to stabilise it for the next hundred years for the future of our hapū and our iwi."
He said the committee had been speaking with master carvers at Te Puia for "quite a long time" to introduce more carvings to the marae, telling stories of Te Arawa whakapapa.
The project is expected to support the employment of 20 people at Te Puia.
The projects are being funded by a combination of loans and investments from the Provincial Growth Fund and the Infrastructure Reference Group's shovel-ready projects allocation.
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and Under-Secretary for Regional Economic Development Fletcher Tabuteau were in Rotorua to make the announcements.
Peters said New Zealand had been winning the Covid-19 battle but "now we have got to win the economic battle".
"We are building on the strengths of the provinces and the people within them and giving them Government backing to survive."
Peters was adamant that Rotorua had assets that would draw people from halfway across the world to see them, but believed more magic was needed around them.
"This is the start of trying to do that."
The deputy prime minister also touched on how immensely proud he was to be involved with St John.
"Here we have a phenomenon of a public service committed to helping the people of this country and being forced to go to charity for their money. Nothing could be more ridiculous of that."
Last month, Peters announced $2.09m from the Provincial Growth Fund to accelerate the Museum and Whakarewarewa and Tokorangi Forest projects.
Peters told the Rotorua Daily Post other regions had not been fast enough on the uptake and he wasn't going to "handicap" those that were.
"The issue is we were looking at the most neglected regions from the word go, such as Northland, Waiariki and dare I say it the Eastern Bay of Plenty.
"The funding stream disparity is closing, but it is not due to preference, it is due to preparation."
Tabuteau said the announcements were "smart and intelligent" spending, that thought about the future of Rotorua tamariki.
"Today is about a genuine response to Covid-19 and making sure the NZ economy employs people, creates jobs, creates community."
Waiariki Labour MP Tamati Coffey said he was elated and grateful to be part of a government that was investing in the regions.
Rotorua Lakes Council deputy mayor Dave Donaldson told those at the announcement the funding, both in the past and from this week, would "individually and collectively" have an impact on the Rotorua's future.
"Your support is changing our future.
"We are now able to get on with these projects in a timely fashion and help stop people joining unemployment queues and slide further into poverty."
Other central government funding announcements for the Bay of Plenty yesterday
Flood relief package - $23m
The six projects are the final stage of the Rangitāiki Floodway project, implementing Ngongotahā stream independent review recommendations, the Whakatāne River flood defence upgrade, the Waioeka Estuary Restoration and Floodway Enhancement project, the Kaituna mole upgrade and surrounding amenity enhancements and Rangitāiki floodwall resilience mitigation.
Rangiuru Business Park - $18m
Funding for an interchange connecting the industrial park with the Tauranga Eastern Link. Construction will create more than 200 jobs.
Ōpōtiki CBD improvements - $11.9m
A project including the redevelopment of the library and digital hub and updated town signs and green space redevelopments.
Ōpōtiki Marina and Industrial Park - $8.8m
A wharf, basin and access road and other infrastructure need to safely moor vessels involved in the harbour development project.
Kāingaroa Village - $5m
An upgrade of infrastructure, facilities and housing over two years. To create more than 100 jobs.
Waiū Dairy, Kawerau - $4.9m
To expand a dairy plant.
Plateau Compost - $588,000
To expand a vermiculture (worm farming) operation.
Ōpōtiki clubs - $169,686
For renovations at the golf and rugby clubs. Funding will go towards refurbishments such as replacing toilet and shower facilities, adding storage and upgrading kitchens.
Mahi Ora Ōpōtiki - $100,000
The Mahi Ora Ōpōtiki programme aims to connect employers with potential employees. It will support the development and implementation of a local workforce development strategy, providing an "education to employment" pipeline.
Whakatōhea Mussels - $5m
To expand the mussel farm and build a mussel processing facility. The funding is expected to accelerate work and increase employment.