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Source: New Zealand Government

Provincial Growth Fund projects around the country that were halted during Alert Level 4 will gain renewed momentum this week with work getting back under way, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones says.

At Alert Level 3, more than 60 projects representing $439.8 million worth of investment are expected to get going again.

“The purpose of the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) has always been to stimulate regional economies and create sustainable employment. That purpose is even more critical now, in these unprecedented circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our regions will play a vital role in the recovery of the national economy so it is crucial we get people back to work safely as soon as possible and for PGF projects to continue to be rolled out,” Shane Jones said.

The Provincial Development Unit (PDU) has so far approved funding for more than 470 projects. While they are all at different stages, and not all involve physical works, they will all pump funds into their local economies, create jobs and revitalise their communities.

Work on PGF-funded projects that will get underway again under Alert Level 3 includes construction, manufacturing, horticulture, engineering and aquaculture.

“In Northland, for example, construction will recommence on major construction projects such as like the Kaipara roading package, the Hundertwasser Art Centre in Whangarei and water storage projects.

“On the West Coast, work will resume on repairs to 300m of Westport Airport seawall which was damaged by ex-Cyclone Fehi in 2018. In Taranaki, work resume on track improvements on the Taranaki Crossing. In addition, Rotorua Whakarewarewa Forest Project and Northland’s Waitangi Mountain Bike Park are seeking extra staff to help clear tracks that have overgrown during lockdown,” Shane Jones said.

Due to the strict health and safety protocols required under Alert Level 3, including appropriate social distancing, some projects won’t be back to full capacity from day one, but the PDU will continue to work with their project partners to accelerate work that stalled during lockdown.

Meanwhile, the PDU is continuing to work through applications and projects to see where PGF money can be repurposed for initiatives that can contribute quickly to an economic recovery in the regions. The PDU is focused on helping existing projects to accelerate their rollout. Where progress is not likely in the immediate future consideration will be given to terminating contracts to allow funds to be better used.

“I expect to be able to take proposals for these repurposed funds to my Cabinet colleagues shortly,” Shane Jones said.

“In addition to the PGF, the Infrastructure Industry Reference Group, led by Crown Infrastructure Partners chairman Mark Binns, is continuing to whittle down a list of more than 2000 proposals totalling $125 billion that have been received since we put a call out for applications for shovel-ready projects.

“Ministers are expected to receive a shortlist of potential pipeline projects in the next fortnight with the aim of getting them started as soon as possible.”

MIL OSI