Whakatāne District Council has been successful in securing $8.229M to undertake a range of projects aimed at creating the equivalent of 130 full-time jobs in the next six months.

The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) investment will support roading, infrastructure and environmental projects providing urgent economic relief for the workforce, particularly those who have lost jobs through COVID-19.

Whakatāne District Council and Bay of Plenty Regional Council coordinated their application to the PGF and were able to secure funding for a range of projects from both councils.

Regional Economic Development Minister, Hon Shane Jones, made the announcement today of $60 million to councils and KiwiRail through the PGF to create employment for local workers, saying the funding means work can start almost immediately on improving roads, cycleways, tree maintenance and water projects in seven regions – including the Bay of Plenty.

Whakatāne District Mayor, Judy Turner, welcomed the news and the opportunity to work with Bay of Plenty Regional Council and other key partners to deliver the projects.

“We’ll follow an alliance model that allows us all to ‘play to our strengths’ to achieve wide-ranging positive outcomes for the District.

“By prioritising social procurement in the way these projects are delivered, we can generate additional benefits beyond the immediate spend. We’ll be able to support local contractors to take on workers, coordinate with the Ministry of Social Development to secure positions for those most impacted, and provide an opportunity for training and career development,” Mayor Turner says.

“There is a six month period to complete a suite of more than 20 project strands, so the clock is ticking. The overall outcome will weave together positive outcomes for road safety, recreational enhancement, three-waters security, environmental improvements and ecological protection.”

Bay of Plenty Regional Council Chairman, Doug Leeder, says the opportunities created by the funding are part of a comprehensive plan for recovery.

“There is the immediate benefit of employment for those who have lost jobs to COVID-19 but the value of the funding is amplified by the new skills people will acquire, which will help them to secure future positions.”

The projects submitted by both councils are all on top of ‘business as usual’. One of the funding criteria is that the projects create new opportunities that haven’t been included in budgets in the coming 18 months.

“The extra projects that we can now undertake deliver on our core environmental touchpoints, such as biosecurity, biodiversity, water quality, habitat protection and diversity as well as social and economic measures,” Chairman Leeder added.

In addition to a steering group with representation from Whakatāne District Council, Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Ministry of Social Development, Toi EDA and Beca, a governance group will be drawn from elected members of both councils, with additional seconded specialist expertise.

The projects will include:

  • Roading – the formation of two right-turn bays off Wainui Road, and improvements to Bunyan Road
  • Parks and Reserves – the maintenance of park equipment and improved amenity of park areas
  • Three Waters – a number of projects to inspect, verify and monitor three waters infrastructure, and training opportunities to develop skills in this area
  • Removal of wilding pines and plant pests from road reserves and river banks
  • Improvement to walking tracks, removal of plant pests and improvements to riparian margins.