Whakatāne to get $36.8m funding boost

A concept sketch of what the harbour development in Whakatāne will look like. Supplied image.

More than $36 million will be invested into waterfront and visitor projects that will “transform” Whakatane and wider Eastern Bay of Plenty region.

Minister Shane Jones announced today that the contribution will be made towards three significant projects with wide-reaching benefits for the Whakatāne District.

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.

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,” Shane says.

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.”

Te Rāhui Lands Trust, Ngāti Awa Group Holdings Limited, Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa and Whakatāne District Council are excited that their applications to the Provincial Growth Fund was successful.

Ngāti Awa Group Holdings Limited chair Paul Quinn says the community is still recovering from the impact of the Whakaari tragedy and so this announcement is gratefully welcomed.

“This is an important opportunity for NAGHL to work with the Trust and the Council as we find ways to contribute, lift productivity and participate in the regional economy together,” he says.

Whakatāne District Mayor Judy Turner agrees, saying the collaboration represents a defining moment for the region and signals an incredible opportunity for economic development and transformational uplift across the whole District.

“The benefits of both projects to local business and the community are huge. This is about working in partnership and identifying ways we can realise our long-term aspirations for our people,” says Mayor Turner.

“Whakatāne is home to two of the three largest aluminium boat builders in the country. The investment in a new boat harbour will allow us to deliver the fit-for-purpose infrastructure to drive more growth and employment in the marine and tourism sectors.”

“Transforming the town and riverfront areas will increase private sector investment and create a vibrant town centre for our community to enjoy, as well as supporting Whakatāne on the journey to become a world-class small-town destination for tourists,” she says.

It is estimated that through these two projects a total of 930 jobs could be created by 2050 with at least 450 of those roles operational in the next decade.

Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa Chair Joe Harawira says the Kāinga project will provide a physical heart to the Whakatāne town centre and complement the riverside regeneration aspirations.

“Kāinga will promote and celebrate our unique heritage, culture and stories. This new destination will support iwi, wider community, recreational and commercial activities and create a gathering place for manuhiri (visitors) and locals.”

Te Rāhui Lands Trust Chair Brian Simpson says the Trust will play a lead role in the boat harbour development.

“This is a historical moment for us as we undertake this work in partnership to realise our collective goals.

“For us, it’s about taking a balanced approach. As kaitiaki we will ensure that the mauri of our whenua and the river will be enhanced by the project while also creating a development that will provide a sustainable solution for the marine sector. The project will deliver intergenerational outcomes for our owners, hapū and the wider Whakatāne community.”

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