Shane Jones. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

Mayors’ plan to access government’s regional cash

 

BECKIE WILSON

beckie.wilson@age.co.nz

The region’s leaders are coming up with an ultimate wish list in the hopes of unlocking government cash from a $3 billion regional development pool.

The Provisional Growth Fund (PGF) allows the country’s regions to pitch their proposals to the government, with Regional Development Minister Shane Jones already splashing the cash in provincial areas around the country.

Wairarapa’s three mayors all have a similar take on what the top priorities for the region should be:
investment in improving the rail service; exploring options for future water storage; and bringing back an airline service to Masterton.

The Masterton, Carterton and South Wairarapa district councils, along with the Greater Wellington Regional Council, are now working to identify the best strategy for securing the funding to achieve those goals.

A Wairarapa economic development strategy report will be completed in June to give the councils more direction on the region’s top priorities.

From that, funding can be secured for feasibility studies to make sure the projects are viable before submitting a proposal to the government.

Carterton Mayor John Booth said it was “really hard to pick one thing” for the region.

However, in addition to the three priorities, Mr Booth suggested investment into rural infrastructure such as waste water schemes and rural roads would help.

Funding for environmental projects would also be worthwhile, he said.

“We have a government which is firing on all cylinders about environment responsibility and that is a big cost too – so help with that [would be great].”

Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson said the overall proposal for Wairarapa had to be a “game changer”.

She did not want to say what she saw as a priority, but it had to boost the “aspirations of everyone who lives in our community”.

South Wairarapa Mayor Viv Napier shared the same views on the region-wide priorities but said South Wairarapa had a couple ideas of its own, although they were still in their “infancy”.

Mrs Napier said developing the Martinborough Dark Sky Reserve would not only boost tourism but could be linked to tertiary education programmes from across the country.

The council was also keen to explore the “one billion trees programme” announced by Mr Jones, she said.

The council has 500ha of land from their three wastewater schemes which could be better utilised, perhaps by starting a seedling nursery on the land.

NZ First MP Ron Mark said he took this idea to Mr Jones who was keen to see a proposal as soon as possible.

He said once the councils had submitted their proposal, it would be up to Labour list MP Kieran McAnulty and himself to champion it to Mr Jones.

Mr Mark said rail, water storage and bringing an airline service back into Masterton would be his top picks.

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment regional economic development director John Doorbar said officers were “keen to talk to the region about potential proposals”.

Officers will be meeting with the Wairarapa mayors early next month.

WHAT IS THE PROVINCIAL GROWTH FUND

The PGF is a $1b per year fund aimed at boosting growth and creating jobs in the regions.

Criteria for funding includes an assessment on whether a project boosts productivity, adds jobs, uses Maori assets and mitigates climate change.

Successful projects will also have to add value, rather than duplicate work already happening, and must have support from local groups.

There must also be evidence of good governance and the ability to survive once the fund was exhausted.