Investing where it counts

Published on 05 August 2021

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There was great news for Northland and the Far North last month. According to ASB bank’s Regional Economic Scoreboard, the Northland economy was New Zealand’s best performing for the third quarter in a row. The bank says our economy is being fuelled by a residential construction boom (Northland had the most consents granted in the country), and this is driving jobs – up nearly 5 per cent year on year.

We know our district is a great place to live and last month one of the most recognisable magazines in the world agreed. In its August double issue, Time magazine names three Far North tourist attractions among its list of the 100 greatest places for 2021. It says the recently re-opened hot springs at Ngawha, the refurbished Te Ahurea Māori village in Kerikeri, and Ōpononi’s Manea Footprints of Kupe cultural centre are “extraordinary attractions to explore”. While the future of international tourism may still be uncertain, this exposure will attract more domestic visitors. Being named by Time is a huge win for these businesses.

Helping to ensure that all visitors have a great experience received a $642,000 boost last month with project funding confirmed for Round Five of the Tourism Infrastructure Fund. The Far North has benefitted more than most from this fund over the years, but we weren’t confident of doing well this time. The Government had warned applicants that funding would favour South Island regions where tourism had been heavily impacted by COVID-19. Despite that, I am very happy to say all the projects the Council nominated will be funded. This will see high-tech lighting added to Paihia and Russell, deliver smart rubbish bins to Paihia, Russell, and Karikari Peninsula, build new toilets at Lake Manuwai and Te Paki Stream, add a dump station at Te Paki Stream Road, and seal Bayly Road at Waitangi Mountain Bike Park.

Improving amenities will always be important, but we cannot ignore the district’s most valuable asset – our natural environment. Last month, the Government announced a $20 million investment in Far North conservation projects. This is a huge win for iwi and community groups that have worked tirelessly over many years to control predators, protect our forests, restore coasts and wetlands, control weeds, and preserve endangered species. The Government’s Jobs for Nature programme will contribute between $700,000 and $3 million each to 12 community or iwi-led projects and create 324 jobs over the next three years. This will be a game changer for these conservation groups. For example, Bay Bush Action has relied on donations to control pests in Ōpua Forest. This new funding will see it expand the area it protects from 500 hectares to 2000 hectares. Every one of the 12 projects will have a similar story. This is great news for the groups that so often struggle for funding. It is also great news for communities that find it difficult to provide long-term employment opportunities. This is an investment that will keep paying dividends for our environment and our district.