The Coalition Government made a number of significant announcements about new investments through the Provincial Growth Fund this week. These investments join numerous others made through the Fund that will create jobs and boost economic development throughout New Zealand's regions.
Supporting Māori landowners and driving regional growth
To date, the biggest barrier to land development has been access to financial capital. The special status of Māori land means commercial banks are less willing to lend to them. This makes getting access to capital a challenge.
The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) will invest up to $100 million to assist landowners in overcoming this obstacle and obtaining the capital required to progress projects which are investment-ready. It also ensures there is now end-to-end support for Māori landowners – from capability building, feasibility work, and the completion of capital projects.
Research released in 2013 found about 80 per cent of Māori freehold land was underutilised or unproductive. This funding will ultimately support moves towards higher-value land use.
Māori landowners can apply for funding through the PGF website. Applications will be assessed through existing Provincial Growth Fund processes. As the administrator of the fund, the Provincial Development Unit will work with the Ministry for Primary Industries and Te Puni Kōkiri to support Māori land owners develop business-ready PGF applications.
Strengthening infrastructure and paving the way for future economic growth in Kaipara
There has been a long history of underinvestment in Northland, particularly in infrastructure.
The Government is committed to investing in the public services and infrastructure that are the basic foundation for a working society.
The $20.39m investment in Kaipara from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) will help strengthen the district’s transport infrastructure and food and horticulture sector, and create the building blocks for future economic growth.
The investment includes much-needed upgrades to transport links, and exploring upgrades to Kaipara wharves and water transport, helping the district leverage more benefits from the Kaipara Harbour, the biggest in New Zealand.
Boosting employment in the regions
We want to support people to learn the skills needed for local jobs while also helping employers meet their growing labour force needs. That's why we've announced the creation of a new skills and employment initiative – Te Ara Mahi (Pathways to Work) – to support workers and employers in regional New Zealand.
The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) will provide an investment of up to $82.4 million towards initiatives to boost skills and employment.
Funding will be allocated specifically to programmes in five of the PGF’s surge regions (Northland, Bay of Plenty, Tairāwhiti, Hawke’s Bay and Manawatū-Whanganui), which face particular challenges including high unemployment, low wages and lower productivity compared to the rest of New Zealand. Additional funding will be allocated to non-surge regions.
The PGF is investing in two specific programmes that support Māori and Pasifika – He Poutama Rangatahi and the expansion of the Ministry for Pacific Peoples’ successful Pacific Employment Support Service. Both programmes target rangatahi who are Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET).
Connecting everyone through better access to digital services
While many of us take digital services for granted, the reality for people based in the regions is that these services are not universally available. In remote communities there are not always locations where local business people can access the internet or where local and visiting business people can come together, or where tourists can access the internet.
This investment will connect marae to the internet and establish Regional Digital Hubs (RDHs) in towns enabling local people and businesses to access digital services.
The RDHs will offer services such as free WiFi connectivity, co-working spaces and guidance on use of the internet for business purposes. The first RDHs will open in Northland with the next regional locations to follow within the funding available.
Connectivity is an essential part of doing business while also enabling education opportunities and enriching community and family relationships. This investment will mean more communities will be able to enjoy the benefits of a digitally-enabled economy.
This builds on $80 million in funding already announced from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) – including the expansion of the Rural Broadband Initiative Phase 2 (RBI2) and Mobile Blackspot Fund (MBSF) programmes, as well as projects to boost connectivity in Southland and on the West Coast.