SunLive         

As we face the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on our economy, New Zealand First’s flagship policy – the Provincial Growth Fund – will be crucial in rebuilding our regions.

It was recently announced that $600 million of PGF funds will be refocused on projects with more immediate economic benefits. Moving forward, the fund will focus on three key objectives: jobs, timelines, and visibility.

We want to make sure our investments will create immediate redeployment and new employment opportunities and income growth to help those communities and sectors most affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

The PGF will invest in skills programmes, sectors and infrastructure to create genuine momentum as some aspects of our regional economies undergo enduring change in the wake of COVID-19.

Timelines will also be a priority. It is crucial that we expedite the work to rebuild our economy to save jobs and businesses.

Cabinet recently gave the Provincial Development Unit (PDU) a renewed mandate to get projects underway as soon as possible. It is our intention to use the special Resource Management Act powers made available during the recovery to see projects progress quickly.

NZ First also welcomes the scrapping of the need for consents for low-risk building work up to 30 square metres. This is a policy long advocated by our party and will free up New Zealand from the bureaucracy of the RMA and the Building Act.

These changes will help expedite infrastructure projects that will be vital to our country’s post-COVID-19 recovery.

Where projects are not meeting deadlines and deliverables, they will be terminated so funds can be freed up for other projects.

With regards to visibility, NZ First wants the PGF to be visible and pro-active in our regions to give regional Kiwis the confidence that our social and economic recovery is underway.

Tauranga, as one of the fastest growing cities in the country, should be optimistic about this. Improvements on our public infrastructure will help make our community better connected and more productive.

The wider Bay of Plenty region should be hopeful of this announcement also. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit our shores, our region had received significant PGF investments.

The loan given to Geo40 Ltd to build and operate a large-scale extraction plant and the support provided for Eco Gas Ltd Partnerships to build a biogas plant are two examples that come to mind.

NZ First understands the importance of our regions to our national economy. If we want our country to fully recover from the COVID-19 crisis, we must look to rebuild our regional economies as quickly as we can.

You can be certain that NZ First will continue the good work we have done for our region thus far.

Clayton Mitchell
New Zealand First MP