Manawatū-Whanganui regional leaders have welcomed Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones’ announcements today of over $48 million from government’s Provincial Growth Fund towards a Regional Freight Hub in Palmerston North, improved digital connectivity for the region, expansion of the National Driver Training Centre at Manfeild, and investment in an Advanced Aviation Hub in Whanganui.
Palmerston North Mayor Grant Smith says today’s $40 million PGF investment for the City will be used by KiwiRail to complete site master-planning and concept design and secure land, for a Regional Freight Hub that will link rail, road and air.
“The hub is a critical step for integrating central New Zealand’s distribution and logistics networks,” says Mayor Smith.
“The exact location is yet to be determined, however KiwiRail is considering options, including in Palmerston North’s North East Industrial Zone near the rail line and airport. KiwiRail will be doing an options analysis as part of the Resource Consent process.
“The regional freight hub builds on Accessing Central New Zealand’s focus on improved integrated multimodal air, road, and rail networks to accelerate exporting from our region to domestic and international markets.
“Under Accelerate25, the region has been successful in progressing a Regional Freight Ring Road for the same area through NZ Transport Agency’s Te Apiti – Manawatū Gorge replacement route announcement earlier this year. The Detailed Business Case for the road is due by the end of this year.
“Progressing a Regional Freight Hub in parallel with the Regional Freight Ring Road and Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū Tararua Highway will bring significant improvements to freight and passenger vehicle movements through the Central North Island hub of Manawatū, improving travel times and lowering costs.
“A Palmerston North centre for distribution will add value to the whole region. The region is going to be well placed to attract investment in logistics, manufacturing and processing - which is critical for the region’s future growth and prosperity.”
Minister Jones also announced a Provincial Growth Fund investment of approximately $4.5 million which will be used to expand the Rural Broadband Initiative Phase Two (RB12), the Mobile Black Spots Fund (MBSF) programme, and make broadband connectivity available to unserved marae in the region.
“Improved digital connectivity for the region is one of the four identified enablers in the Manawatū-Whanganui Economic Action Plan,” says Tararua Mayor Tracey Collis.
“Today’s announcement is something our district is particularly pleased to see. Our local community have been working towards better telecommunications infrastructure solutions through a project called Connect Tararua.
“Landline, cell phone and internet services are crucial to our rural areas, where many businesses run from. Better connectivity will allow for improved access to markets and quality of life.”
Manawatū Mayor Helen Worboys has welcomed a $2.8 million investment from the Provincial Growth Fund towards the expansion of the National Driver Training Centre (NDTC) in Feilding.
“The investment will be used by the Manfeild Park Trust to expand their current Class 1 driver training programme to deliver a full suite of driver training, including truck, digger, 4WD, forklift and roller training,” says Mayor Worboys.
“The courses came about when contractors were crying out for people to work on the MacKays to Peka Peka expressway. This need will continue to be alleviated in our region, where significant roading projects such as the Manawatū Gorge alternative route, Regional Freight Ring Road, and Otaki to North of Levin are expected to get underway in the next few years.
“The NDTC programmes are critical to providing long-term skilled employment for our people, while helping to deliver on our region’s civil constructions needs.”
The Provincial Growth Fund will also be investing $400,000 towards the establishment of an Advanced Aviation Hub at Whanganui Airport, as part of the New Zealand International Commercial Pilot Academy (NZICPA).
Whanganui Mayor Hamish McDouall says the investment will be used to produce a business case for expanding our existing world-class pilot academy facilities.
“This injection means we can investigate the potential for an advanced simulation centre to enable pilots to undertake the most up-to-date training,” says Mayor McDouall.
“The NZICPA could become an internationally significant pilot training organisation, attracting more people to our district.”
“A training centre of this kind could support up to 288 students per year, enabling pilots, flight attendants, aeronautical engineers, and others to gain the qualifications needed for modern commercial aircraft.
“This will be transformative for Whanganui,” says Mayor McDouall.
Accelerate25 lead team facilitator and Horizons Regional Council chief executive Michael McCartney says that today’s Provincial Growth Fund announcements have enabled these major projects to progress and is another positive step towards helping the region meet its full potential.
“This includes upskilling our people, creating more jobs, moving products efficiently and effectively, and providing better connectivity,” says Mr McCartney.
“We have a strong local plan that directly links to central government’s commitment to lifting regional productivity and ensuring all New Zealanders are able to participate in an economy that is inclusive, sustainable and productive.
“We welcome the ongoing investment in our region.”
Other announcements made for the region included:
Accelerate25 is a regional economic growth programme that aligns people, policy and funding in priority areas to drive growth and create a more prosperous Manawatū-Whanganui Region by 2025. Led by a governing Lead Team representing business, iwi, central government and seven local territorial authorities, Accelerate25’s aim is to realise the opportunities and enablers identified in the Manawatū-Whanganui Economic Action Plan.
In addition to the Action Plan, a complementary document called Te Pae Tewhiti outlines how Māori business will be known in our region for building capabilities, sustainable use of the environment, being innovative and adaptive, and reflective of Te Ao Māori.
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