Today, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, was in Ōpōtiki to announce funding for a wide range of projects which will see locals employed in the development and upgrade of community facilities.
In April this year, central government called for projects that were able to begin within 6-12 months to be put forward as part to Crown Infrastructure Partners (CIP) for consideration for government funding.
Ōpōtiki Mayor, Lyn Riesterer, acknowledged the Minister's announcement and thanked him for the benefits it would bring to the Ōpōtiki community.
The Mayor also said that Ōpōtiki had moved fast on the invitation and put forward a number of projects that tied into the district's long term vision that had driven the community for almost 20 years. She said many of the projects were already "in the wings" but had stalled or slowed because of the "burden they could put on ratepayers that were already stretched."
"Ōpōtiki is in a unique position because we already have excellent partnerships with local iwi, industry and government agencies and a strong long term plan for transformational change for our district.
"However, we have a very small ratepayer base who are already pushed hard just to meet the basics of water, roading, and rubbish. It means that many projects that we knew would benefit our community had to be pushed out or kept in our back pocket for a rainy day.
"A good example are our footpaths. Most of the town doesn't have good footpaths or any footpaths at all but the only way we could afford to build them was at a rate of a couple of blocks a year. Through funding from central government, we have been able to do that all in one go which is amazing.
"The other projects announced today fall into that a similar category – things that will be outstanding community assets, but that we have not been able to afford for many years. We are just over the moon to see these projects get off the ground. Knowing they have the double-benefit of boosting local businesses and employing local people makes it even better," Mayor Riesterer said.
Projects announced today are a mixture of Provincial Growth Fund and Infrastructure Reference Group shovel ready projects and are a substantial boost to the Council's planned Te Tāhuhu o Te Rangi project and the town centre revitalisation. Council expects to announce a preferred tenderer within a couple of weeks and physical works could start on the old library site as soon as next month.
Other projects that would benefit from the funding would build towards the new look and feel for the town centre including upgrades to the skate park, historic entrances and verandas, signage, improvements to currently vacant buildings, upgrades to green spaces and a central playground at the Rose Gardens.
"This funding is an investment in community facilities and it brings our public spaces and amenities up to a high standard so that the whole community benefits. It is part of our mission to turn Ōpōtiki around and create a better future for the generations that come after us. We want to hand over a district with a vibrant new industry, new training and employment, robust infrastructure, outstanding community spaces and a world of new opportunities. It is thrilling to be on the right path to that future," Mayor Riesterer said.
The Deputy PM also announced funding for upgrades to several club buildings (the golf club and the rugby club) and a contributions to the joint council and Whakatōhea funded project Mahi Ora Ōpōtiki, a community-employment programme providing an education-to-employment pipeline.
Additional funding was also announced to accelerate activity in the aquaculture space with $13.9 million covering additional funding for the Whakatōhea mussel processing facility and a marine industrial precinct.
More detail will be available on each of these projects in the coming weeks.