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Region urged to apply for funding

THE new Government’s billion-dollar regional growth fund is there for the taking, if the right case is made, and Minister Shane Jones has urged this district to access it for funding that could include restoration of the railway.

The Regional Economic Development, Infrastructure and Forestry Minister made that patently clear when he dropped in to the Ina Te Ora ‘Future Foods’ conference at Muriwai marae yesterday afternoon.

“I encourage the region to get its ducks in a row, to get organised and apply for funding to help the Gisborne region grow.

“The Government does not have to spend the billion dollars, but it is available to be used,” Mr Jones said.

The region should groom up a proposal around the restoration of the railway line from Napier to Gisborne, for example.

He was asked if he felt the Government would support such an application.

“It would depend on the cost. But Winston Peters and I made it clear during the election campaign that we are great supporters of rail.

“I was told today the roads are suffering because of excessive trucking associated with the log trade, and that peak flow of logs is only just beginning.

“So let’s look at rail!”

Mr Jones said the region should “gather its forces” and make some moves to get additional funding for rail restoration and the upgrade of the road network.

Gisborne District Council has already made a case to the new Government for an additional $35 million for roading work.

Mayor commentsMayor Meng Foon welcomed Mr Jones’ comments.

“I thought what he said was very positive for us. He is urging us to get ready and make applications for regional growth funding.”

The minister was told by a conference-goer that 30 years ago the government of the day urged the planting of trees.

But over the years not enough had been spent to prepare the roads for when the peak log harvest started.

“The pressure is on the road network now and the roads are not handling it,” he said.

Mr Jones said previous governments had “turned off the tap” for regional roading infrastructure development.

On his way to Gisborne yesterday Mr Jones called in to Wairoa to announce an immediate grant of $150,000 to get a building apprentice scheme going in the town.

“It will be seed funding to get it started.”

Wairoa District Council made an application for it as part of the regional growth fund.

“I told Mayor Meng Foon that Tairawhiti should access funding in the same way.”

The Wairoa grant goes to the Wairoa Community Partnership Group.

“I wanted to start with places like Wairoa where there is lots of resilience and people are serious about wanting to turn fortunes around,” he told the Wairoa Star.

Wairoa Mayor Craig Little said it was a thrill to have a Minister in the town so soon after the new Government was formed.

Mr Little spoke to Mr Jones about plans to plant 100,000 hectares a year in forestry around New Zealand, and pointed to added value for Wairoa forest products with a mill to produce end products like furniture and housing materials.

“The Government is talking about building 10,000 houses a year and here we are with the raw material on our doorstep.”

Mr Little also said he wanted to see some further progress around rail and a rail hub.

YES MINISTER: Regional Economic Development, Forestry and Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones spoke at the Future Foods conference at Muriwai marae yesterday and urged the region to apply for growth funds under the billion-dollar scheme. He is pictured meeting Vanessa Hayes from Torere Macadamias. Picture by Liam Clayton