PGF reset helps regional economies

The Provincial Growth Fund will play a vital role in New Zealand’s post-COVID-19 recovery by creating jobs in shorter timeframes through at least $600 million being refocused on projects with more immediate economic benefits, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones has announced.

The funding is comprised of repurposed Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) money and unallocated funding from the Regional Investment Opportunities Contingency.

Shane Jones today announced the first tranche of new projects to be funded, including up to $100m for waterway fencing, riparian planting and stock water reticulation, $60m for road and rail investments and up to $70m for upgrades of marae, town halls, Pasifika churches and war memorials. The funding is expected to create hundreds of jobs throughout the country.

“The refocused PGF has three clear objectives that will drive every decision from now on,” Shane Jones said.

“Number One – jobs. We want to make sure our investments will create immediate redeployment and new employment opportunities and income growth to help those communities and sectors most affected by the COVID-19 crisis. We will invest in skills programmes, sectors and infrastructure to create genuine momentum as some aspects of our regional economies undergo enduring change in the wake of COVID-19.

“Number Two – timelines. Cabinet has given the Provincial Development Unit (PDU) a renewed mandate to get projects underway as soon as possible. We will work hard and use the special Resource Management powers made available during the recovery to see projects progress quickly. Where projects are not meeting deadlines and deliverables, they will be terminated so funds can be freed up for other projects.

“Number Three – visibility. We want the PGF to be visible and active in our regions and we want regional Kiwis to have confidence that our social and economic recovery is underway.”

The PGF will continue with its tiered investment approach, with regional employment and skills programmes, investment alongside key regional firms and sectors and investment in enabling infrastructure. However, there has been a shift in the focus of the PGF’s criteria and additional weight and emphasis given to certain sectors.

“There are also some changes to how the PDU goes about its contracting to speed up the process of getting money out of the door and into the pockets of hard-working New Zealanders.

“The PGF has already established an excellent track record of supporting the regional economies so is in a good place to take on this new approach,” Shane Jones said.

“Our focus is on the next two to six months but projects that provide longer term economic benefits, support productivity and strengthen critical infrastructure in the surge regions will remain a priority for investment.

“I want to emphasise that the PGF will prioritise investment in sectors that are central to regional economies and will continue to be core to the economy through the rebuild phase,” Shane Jones said.

The funding for waterway improvement will encourage more farmers to fence off sensitive waterways from stock.

“Some farmers wish to protect their waterways but find the costs of fencing prohibitive in the short term. Regional councils provide some support for fencing which the PGF can augment by contracting local firms to redeploy workers to undertake the work. Fencing, planting and stock water reticulation would be undertaken only on land where owners wish to have their waterways fenced and could be done in a timely way.”

The $60m for local roading and rail projects will be spread across Bay of Plenty, Manawatu-Whanganui, West Coast, Wairarapa, Taranaki, Top of the South and Waikato. Local roading projects involve constructing footpaths, cycleways, playgrounds, vegetation management and roadside clearing and would create at least 600 jobs. The rail projects will fund deferred maintenance like culvert cleaning and drainage improvements in regional New Zealand, which would create 200 jobs.

Shane Jones also announced PGF funding of $7.5m for another four projects that will make a huge difference to regions recovering from the impacts of COVID-19.

The projects are:

  • $2.9 million for Apollo Foods Ltd in Hawke’s Bay for new technology and to upskill workers to increase productivity and capability.
  • $2.5 million for an upgrade to Raglan Wharf to increase berth numbers and improve access for commercial operators, recreational users, and customers visiting the retail and hospitality businesses that could operate there.
  • $1.86 million to redevelop the Westport waterfront with a pedestrian and cycle bridge from the town centre to the riverfront. This will provide greater access to another PGF-funded project, the Kawatiri Coastal trail, and will allow trail related businesses close access to the town centre.
  • $209,500 for Otago engineering firm Te Pari Products to buy equipment that will increase its capacity to supply the primary sector with quality livestock-handling equipment.

“The PGF will also provide funding for the renovation of town halls, war memorials, marae and Pasifika churches all over the country.

“Renovating these buildings will provide work for local tradies and contractors while regular building and repair work is on hold. It is an opportunity to target Māori, Pasifika and other vulnerable workers who are not able to secure contracts through more substantial infrastructure projects. Funding of $70m will cover salaries and construction costs for these projects,” Shane Jones said.

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