Boots are on the ground and work is already underway to build new footpaths across the Ōpōtiki district bringing new employment and work opportunities for locals.
Earlier this month, the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) committed $60m for job-creation projects in provincial areas which included almost $4.5m for new footpaths, cycleway extensions and horse trails in the Ōpōtiki District.
Ōpōtiki District Council's Engineering and Services Group Manager, Ari Erickson, said Council had moved as quickly as possible to start works and the funding had moved just as fast to keep up.
"I know that government agencies have a reputation for moving relatively slowly, but when we were asked to submit "shovel ready" projects, we took that seriously – we are ready to go. And the PGF team have enabled this at every step. As a result, we have contractors ramping up and we are already taking the first steps to get new footpaths in place for our communities. From the green light to pouring the first path a matter of a few weeks is possibly a record," Mr Erickson said.
Council chose to focus on footpaths because not only does the township benefit from the amenity and safety improvements, the works have high workforce requirements and those labour needs could be sustained as the work moves from footpaths to harbour construction over the coming months and years.
"Employment and supporting our local contractors is another big part of it – we have gone wide with our approach to share the work around our contractors. It is a labour intensive process allowing our local displaced and disrupted workforce to step into the work. It also works very closely with the rock and concrete works that are coming online through the Harbour project, so it is not just a short-term thing – there will be work in this space for a long time into the future." Mr Erickson said.
Paul Blennerhassett, Delta Contracting Ltd, said that it was already leading to new employment in his team.
"This is a great opportunity to give unemployed young people some new skills that they can take forward either in this job or so they can explore a wider range of employment opportunities in the future.
"We are really glad to be assisting some people who I know have been hard hit by COVID and at the same time bringing a new and valuable asset to the district," Mr Blennerhassett said.
Image: Contractors begin works on new footpaths on St John Street, Ōpōtiki.