Bay of Plenty plans for COVID-19 economic recovery
Bay of Plenty civic leaders are working collaboratively to ensure the region can recover economically from COVID-19.
Representatives from the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Tauranga City Council, Rotorua Lakes Council and Kawerau, Opotiki, Taupo, Whakatane and Western Bay of Plenty district councils met via Zoom on Tuesday to discuss their separate and joint applications to the Crown Infrastructure Partnership Group .
The CIPG is seeking applications on projects in the public interest, which are "shovel ready", that it may fund or accelerate the progress of to stimulate the economy as the country recovers from COVID-19.
Regional council chairman Doug Leeder says the challenges of COVID-19 are of an unprecedented scale and the regional council is focused on its role as an environmental caretaker as well as supporting the people within its rohe.
He says the projects put forward by the regional council would create jobs, encourage environmental sustainability and respond to the threat of climate change.
The regional council is seeking funding for the Rangitaiki Floodway, Flood Resilience Projects, "Green Work" projects and regional transport projects.
The Rangitaiki Floodway project is in response to the 2017 Edgecumbe flood event.
Doug says the subsequent Cullen report on the flood noted that the Rangitaiki Floodway project was a "matter of urgency" and needed to be completed as soon as possible.
The regional council is seeking $13.7 million in funding from the CIPG and the project is estimated to employ 50-60 full-time workers.
The Flood Resilience Projects cover floodbank development work on the Whakatane and Waioeka Rivers and new Ngongotaha flood protection works.
The projects are expected to cost $12 million across two years and employ 60 full-time workers.
Doug says the work on the Whakatane and Waioeka Rivers would support both towns’ Provincial Growth Fund harbour developments.
It will also upgrade drainage in the rivers to go "above and beyond" best environmental practice.
The "Green Work" projects will include pest control, biodiversity enhancement and wetland development. If successful it will see two million native trees planted.
While it has not been approved by regional councillors yet, DOug says the more than 30 proposed projects could be partly funded by regional council, Government, landowners and industry.
The regional transport projects are yet to be considered by the Public Transport Committee but could include park and ride facilities, transport hubs and rail.
Opotiki mayor Lyn Riesterer enquired whether people who found themselves unemployed as a result of COVID-19 could find employment in these projects.
Doug says the Rangitaiki Floodway project would be too technical to employ someone who had lost their motel cleaning job, but that people could potentially find employment in the Green Work projects.
"We want to get people out of their homes, off the benefit and into the community."
Whakatane, Opotiki and Kawerau district councils put forward a joint table of projects being considered in their districts.
These include three waters works, transport, buildings and structures, parks and reserve, flood protection and cycle ways.
All up the projects are expected to cost $239 million and employ 2942 full-time workers.
Some projects are already underway while others could proceed within six to 12 months.
Whakatane Mayor Judy Turner says the projects are economically, socially and environmentally sound and the benefits of them could extend past the district's borders.
She says her council is also considering ratepayer relief following both the Whakaari-White Island eruption and COVID-19.
Judy says the three councils will continue to work collaboratively with each other and with iwi.
Kawerau Mayor Malcolm Campbell said councils had a "huge task" ahead of them.
"We need to keep positive... there are people hurting out there," says Malcolm.
Doug told the three Eastern Bay mayors that the regional council could assist councils if they came upon any "minor" consenting issues that needed to be fast-tracked.
However, he notes the councils have been working on the proposed cycleway from Opotiki through to Kawerau and potentially onto Rotorua for over five years and were therefore well planned.
Lyn says in a conversation she had with MP Shane Jones, she had informed him hold ups rarely came from councils but rather outside organisations such as the Department of Conservation and Heritage New Zealand.
"It is often them holding up our projects and it was good to express to the minister that they are often the reason for our delays."
Taupo Mayor David Trewavas says his council is looking at three waters projects, a civic and welfare centre, an event centre for Turangi and an upgrade of sports grounds.
Western Bay of Plenty Mayor Garry Webber says his council is looking at two major projects including the Rangiuru Business Park Public Infrastructure as well as public infrastructure to support the development of marae and papakainga housing.
He says this as a "little out of the box" but essential.
Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick says her council is looking at infrastructure, wastewater treatment plant upgrades and the airport business park development as well as several tourism investments.
Lyn says she see an emphasis on construction in all councils’ plans yet many people who had lost their jobs did not have a construction background.
She says councils would potentially have to "share" the workforce until more people had been trained.
Doug says councils should not "underestimate" the success of the apprenticeship regime and said many people would need to train on the job.
Gary says the biggest limit on all the council's plans would be the lack of resources available to make them happen.
"The point is, we need to get people into jobs and quickly," says Doug.
All mayors say they will like to recognise and congratulate their staff who worked over the Easter weekend to ensure all proposals are ready to be submitted.
All councils submitted their proposals to the CIPG on Tuesday.