The Provincial Growth Fund is investing more than $7.5 million in Northland ventures to combat the economic impact of the COVID-19 virus, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones have announced.
The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) investment is going to the Northern Adventure Experience and the Queenstown Resort College in the Bay of Islands.
“This is a great opportunity to lessen the impact of Covid-19, grow the regional economy, create jobs and kick-start the tourism industry in preparation for the summer season,” Mr Peters said.
The Northern Adventure Experience (NAX) will receive a $5.59m funding boost to improve and enhance the visitor experience in the Bay of Islands.
“The first railway in the North Island was a horse-drawn tram built in 1868 to haul coal from the mines in Kawakawa to Derrick Landing where it was transferred onto barges and taken down river to the port at Opua.
“The horses were replaced in 1871 by Puffing Billy, a Scottish-built steam locomotive. Later that year a 12-seater carriage was added and the North Island’s first passenger rail service began.
The Bay of islands Vintage Railway has been working to restore the original line since 2003,” Mr Peters said.
“The first part of the construction plan is to replace 6.5km of the current cycleway that runs over old railway tracks.
“The popular vintage rail experience will be improved and extended to run from Kawakawa all the way to Opua. In addition, the historic 109-year-old steam ferry Minerva Steamboat will be fully restored to operate from Opua,” Mr Peters said.
“We are expecting NAX will provide extensive training opportunities for local residents to support the tourism ventures. Once the project is underway, 68 construction jobs and up to 25 permanent jobs in the tourism industry are expected to be created,” Mr Jones said.
“It can also provide the catalyst for other tourism developments, creating a potential economic boost in the region.”
As well as the NAX funding, the Queenstown Resort College (QRC) will receive $1.96m for a project to help retain and up-skill up to 250 tourism and hospitality employees to tell the important stories of the region.
They will be upskilled to achieve NZC L4 Tourism Operations and up to 100 of the 250 employees will have the option of a pathway into an apprenticeship within their chosen field in the tourism industry.
“Prior to COVID-19 tourism and hospitality were one of the highest GDP earners for Northland. This project is part of the recovery plan for the tourism industry in the Bay of Islands – aiming to keep core staff connected to the industry and increase their capability to ensure businesses continue to thrive in the coming seasons,” Mr Peters said.
“These projects build on the PGF funding of more than $550m to projects in the Northland region to grow the regional economy,” Mr Jones said.