More than $29 million worth of loans from the Provincial Growth Fund for several local projects over the coming months will help offset the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones says.

The funding has been set aside for the Development of a commercial boat harbor on the Whakatāne River, the Whakatāne riverfront revitalization, kiwifruit orchard development at Raukokore, and the Raukokore water storage project.

“While this Government has responded quickly to the need for short- and medium-term support for Kiwis, businesses, and industry, we are also working on a comprehensive long-term economic recovery package.

“Finalising these Provincial Growth Fund loans and getting this much-needed capital into the regions over the next few months will aid longer-term economic stability and create sustainable jobs in the local community.

“They are proof of the commitment we have to supporting our regions and the confidence we have that they will recover economically from what has been a devastating blow for some regions and sectors,” Shane Jones said.

The Raukokore water storage project will receive $10.6m to enable the design and construction of the Raukokore and Waihau Bay community water storage and distribution project. A further $5m will be set aside for the development of a kiwi fruit orchard on Maori land at Raukokore; It will enable higher-value land use and sustainable employment opportunities in Raukokore for landowners and the community.

The Whakātane District Council, in collaboration with Ngati Awa, will receive $9.6m for the development of a continuous riverfront promenade developed with visitor amenities and recreation area, and a wharf package to upgrade facilities to encourage growth in vessel numbers and boost commercial and recreational activity. A further $4.7m will be set aside for Te Rahui Lands Trust, Ngati Awa Group Holdings and Whakātane District Council for the development of a commercial boat harbor to expand the boatbuilding industry in Whakātane

“These projects are going to make a real social and economic difference in their communities. Our regions will play a large role in the recovery of our economy and we need to channel every dollar of PGF funding we can into supporting them and the communities within them,” Shane Jones said.

Some of these loans will be paid in tranches, and ongoing payments are subject to conditions that include reaching key milestones.

“When making loans, the Provincial Development Unit considers a range of public benefits such as contribution to regional economic growth, job creation, skills development and improving environmental, cultural and social indicators that commercial banks don’t typically consider,” Shane Jones said.