It’s been 20 years in the planning, but work is finally to start on a new harbour for Opotiki, thanks to a $79.4 million Provincial Growth Fund investment announced by Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones in March.
The development of the harbour will enable large-scale commercial operations, primarily in aquaculture, to exist and support economic growth for the region. The most significant benefit to the community will be the opportunities around job creation. Jobs for the development of the harbour as well as jobs created through ongoing marine and aquaculture expansion enabled by the harbour development.
In his announcement, Shane Jones said of the 1850 jobs created from this project, 730 would be in Opotiki.
Whakatohea Pre-Settlement Claims Trust chairman Graeme Riesterer says this is a game-changer for Whakatohea and Opotiki in terms of economic development.
“The community will benefit by the creation of hundreds of new jobs and higher wages. It provides jobs for Whakatohea whanau who’ve had to leave the region, to come home to paid employment. “And for our rangatahi (children), who will now have opportunities to stay and live locally without missing out on career or development prospects.
“We know that sustainable seafood is on the rise globally, this trend supports our Mana Moana strategy for investment and growth in aquaculture initiatives to progress once the Whakatohea Settlement has been ratified by whanau, and the harbour development enables this to happen.
“We aren’t just thinking about now, this settlement is for all Whakatohea, now and in the future and the harbour development is an enabler to various economic opportunities for our Iwi,” says Graeme.
Economist Ian Dickson says the harbour development will enable a year-round navigable harbour entrance built to service large-scale commercial operations to marine farm offshore from Opotiki, in a safe and accessible way.
“A marine place of safety is essential for offshore marine farming to develop in the Eastern Bay of Plenty. It is the key piece of infrastructure that provides the backbone structure for the industry to grow on.”
Opotiki Mayor Lyn Riesterer says the project will help unlock the full aquaculture potential on Opotiki’s doorstep.
“This decision from central government is the culmination of years of hard graft by the council, Whakatohea, private businesses and the wider community to bring this vision to reality.
“Our figures and planning have held up under intense scrutiny and we are thrilled that this is on the cusp of becoming a reality.
“We are what we like to call ‘spade-ready’. Short of having money in our account to start spending on people and materials, we are ready to go. We have the contracts and consents and the project plans. This funding is our green light.
Lyn says the harbour project is the start of a new era for her district – new jobs, new industry and a new way forward. “And we are more than ready to grab this opportunity with both hands – get our rangatahi into real, long-term and meaningful work. I can’t wait to see the innovative future we build for ourselves with this kick start.”
Former Opotiki Mayor John Forbes, who has advocated for this outcome for more than 20 years, says it is a proud moment for the whole community.
“This project is an excellent example of central, regional and local government working together in partnership with iwi, industry and private businesses to bring the best outcome not just for us here in Opotiki, but also for the region and for the nation.
“It underpins our economy. Where infrastructure goes, it enables new industry, new opportunities and growth. This project will boost NZ’s growing aquaculture industry and make us world-leaders in sustainable, high-value protein production. All in an area of provincial NZ that has a recent history of high deprivation and under employment.
“Opotiki is using this exciting piece of infrastructure to transform the social and economic future for the district,” says John.
The PGF funding is in addition to $20 million pledged by Bay of Plenty Regional Council in 2013 as part of its Regional Infrastructure Fund, which established the local and regional commitment to the project. This funding was focussed on enabling aquaculture development, export opportunities and job growth in the Opotiki and the wider EBOP.
In the years since, EBOP councils have continued to work closely and align the area’s long-term vision and regional funding projects.
BOPRC chairman Doug Leeder says the RIF recognises the notable economic development opportunities that this project enables. “The funding package that the Government has approved through the PGF is a major milestone for the project and one of the key conditions on BOPRC funding.
“The potential this project brings for job growth in Opotiki and the EBOP is significant. This project enables major economic and social development opportunities which have the capability to transform the wellbeing of the broader EBOP.”