$17.2m to boost jobs and food production
The Government today poured $17.27m into bringing “world-leading” food-growing technology to Gisborne and creating more than 100 new jobs for agricultural workers and truck operators.
The biggest in a series of PGF funding announcements made by Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones today was to provide LeaderBrand with a $15m loan.
“Our support for LeaderBrand will help them build large greenhouses that produce salad vegetables throughout the year and boost production from their salad processing plant,” Mr Jones said.
“The $15m loan from the PGF will support existing capacity and employment, with the new greenhouses expected to add another 50 jobs throughout the company once the plant is running at full capacity.
“LeaderBrand has been part of the Gisborne region for over 40 years.
“Their vision for the future is to make Gisborne the New Zealand capital for fresh produce. This is a vision built on the natural advantages of a region that will drive strong growth for local businesses, as well as higher wages and more jobs.”
The loan would help LeaderBrand construct greenhouses on an initial 30ha of land.
“This will allow them to test their more ambitious investment plans and be in a stronger position to expand this programme as future investment allows.
“The greenhouses will also protect crops against severe weather, while reducing environmental impacts for water and fertiliser use,” Mr Jones said.
Speaking to LeaderBrand management and staff, Mr Jones said the mutually-agreed commercial terms around the loan had taken a long time to negotiate but the project would introduce “world-leading” technology here and summed-up the initial intentions around the creation of the PGF to invest in “imaginative” and “innovative” projects.
“We have allocated well beyond $180m to various kaupapa in Tairawhiti but this is a very innovative one.”
LeaderBrand chief executive Richard Burke said the funds would provide a “huge” opportunity for the company to build on the investments it had already made.
Mr Burke pointed out that over the past five years, output from Gisborne salad had increased 240 percent. It now needed to fill 3.6 trucks a day.
He also pointed out the loan would have to be paid back.
“This is a pretty major investment for us as well, so we need to make sure it works.
“It really does help us grow our business.”
The retractable technology would protect against bird impacts as well as weather events.
In addition to the loan for LeaderBrand, a further funding of $2.27m for jobs and a training package was announced.
“This funding from the PGF’s Te Ara Mahi (TAM) and He Poutama Rangatahi (HPR) allocations means getting more people work-ready through the support of locally-led initiatives. We know this is essential for our regions to thrive and grow, which is a key priority for this Coalition Government,” Mr Jones said.
Almost $1m of that ($999,000) would be used to help Eastland Wood Council’s Tairawhiti Road Transport – Recruitment and Training Project train up to 80 truck drivers for the region’s freight transport, forestry and agriculture sectors.
“With the current shortage of drivers predicted to increase, this programme is vital to make sure the region has access to skilled labour, while also improving the employment prospects of local people,” Mr Jones said.
Tairawhiti Rural Education Activities Programme/REAP’s GDL2 Mahi driver licensing programme will receive $697,000.
“This funding will scale up an existing programme and train 300 people in rural Tairawhiti over the next two years for restricted, defensive driving and full licences, meanwhile helping people find work,” Employment Minister Willie Jackson said.
Other programmes approved to receive funding were Gisborne Development Incorporated’s Rangatahi Pathways to Trades ($425,000), Eastland Wood Council’s Generation Programme ($90,000), and Aotearoa Social Enterprise Trust ($63,000).
“These projects exemplify the purpose of Te Ara Mahi and He Poutama Rangatahi — to give regions the capability to support local people with skills, training and employment.”
“Rangatahi Pathways to Trades will receive $425,000 to expand the programme’s support of local rangatahi aged 20 to 24, to help more into industry-based apprenticeships, employment and further training.
“With a focus on construction, engineering and automotive industries, this project will fuel major sectors with the right labour supply from local rangatahi who want a future career in the industry but need support to get started,” Mr Jackson said.
“We’re also seeing a number of HPR projects achieve early success and exceed anticipated demand. Eastland Wood Council will receive an additional $90,000 to support a further 24 rangatahi aged 16 to 24 through The Generation Programme, and add driver and literacy skills.
“Aotearoa Social Enterprise Trust’s Poutama Rangatahi Programme will also receive a further $63,000 due to a significant increase in the demand from rangatahi.”
• A further announcement was expected to be made in Tolaga Bay later today.