Ōpōtiki shines for Prime Minister’s visit
Today, Friday 3 April 2021 Ōpōtiki welcomed Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Minister for Economic Development, Stuart Nash, and Labour MP Tamati Coffey to Te Rere Marae, one of the local marae that have benefited from upgrade funding through the Provincial Development Unit. It was also an opportunity to discuss the many successful projects underway in the Ōpōtiki District.
Ōpōtiki Mayor, Lyn Riesterer said that it was an opportunity to bring together the many people and organisations who are working in partnership to revitalise the district and turn the economic prospects around.
In her speech, the Mayor said that she wanted to genuinely thank government for the investments made in the district over the past year.
“Central government has trusted us with funding for so many projects in the past couple of years – particularly the harbour entrance, the town centre upgrade, new footpaths, Te Tāhuhu o Te Rangi, support for kiwifruit and of course marae funding.
“This visit was an opportunity to show all that we are achieving with that funding and the genuine difference we are making right here on the ground.
“There are so many people who have gone before that have built us up to this point. This has been many many years in the making and we are the fortunate generation that finally starts to see the rubber hitting the road.
“The Prime Minister’s speech really showed an appreciation for what we are achieving. She said that it was heartening to see decisions made on paper all the way away in Wellington are made real here. She heard from rangatahi with new prospects and new dreams for their future. She saw industries being built from the ground up and the benefits of many years of strong and prosperous partnerships,” Mayor Riesterer said.
The tour was an opportunity to see upgrades on marae, the new mussel processing factory, the harbour entrance and a small look at the town centre upgrades. There were also displays about local pathway to work programmes and education, training and youth opportunities.
Opotiki District Mayor Riesterer's full speech
Kia ora koutou katoa
Prime Minister, today we celebrate two achievements…our long term aspirational projects plus our post covid economic recovery projects. And today is a fantastic opportunity to stop and reflect on what a mammoth 12 to 14 months it has been for us all in Ōpōtiki District.
The long standing aspiration to recover our district’s economic and social independence by growing a marine industry and creating good jobs for locals has been realised by Whakatōhea Mussels building the marine farms and a new state of the art processing factory. Ōpōtiki will be an important part in delivering your $3B target for the Aquaculture industry. Alongside this we are finally building the harbour infrastructure that enables all of this to remain in the heart of our Whakatōhea iwi realising their dream. As well, along the Coast iwi and hapu are growing their industry producing some of the best kiwifruit in NZ. These aspirational projects have taken decades to develop and deliver. They have required local leadership and perseverance across many years and several different leaders. We have faced significant challenges along the way that have been resolved through resilience, good old fashioned stickability and those initial visions we worked towards.
Secondly, we are also celebrating our successful journey through a global pandemic through lockdowns, levels 1 to 4 which led to the post covid economic recovery with our delivery of a suite of projects aimed at supporting our local economy and jobs We deliberately shaped them to support our long standing visions. I want to acknowledge your leadership both nationally and internationally during these pandemic times and also for giving us the space to lead locally. To do all of this in the same 12 to 14 months is a testament to our local community, businesses and organisations… to coordinate and collaborate and to be able to deliver. We got them to the point of being shovel ready and, supported by government, we are now busy delivering them with great outcomes for all. PDU, you rock! Thank you for your confidence in us and ensuring we have the capability to succeed.
What does hope and success look like to us? Seeing 3 cranes in our skyline at the same time as two of the largest projects get underway….visual infrastructure to show that things are changing for the better (footpaths)…an invasion of orange cones helping get the infrastructure set…and just with that the mood of our people lifts.
What is happening here in Ōpōtiki District is as it should be…locally led solutions with government getting behind us…this has been the recipe to success and this is also a special brand of success because it crosses the well beings that both our Council and our iwi are committed to in our plans for the future. I hope that government will look at Ōpōtiki and think about these critical factors when you are considering the review of local government over the next few years.
We think we can follow this same formula for solving our Housing crisis. We already have plans and had written to the Housing Minister in this regard even before your recent announcement of the Housing Infrastructure Fund.
Our aspirational projects have merged in with the post-covid economic recovery projects but together they are allowing us to “play catch up” and improve our economic and social wellbeing that has been somewhat lacking over the past 30 to 40 years. We are determined to improve our overall quality of living, quality of life through this time…it is probably our biggest ever opportunity to bring ourselves up to par with many other districts in New Zealand.
Thank you for your belief in us to deliver. Thank you for backing us to deliver and thank you for being here today to celebrate with us to see what we are delivering for Ōpōtiki District. We have “hoped” for 20 years, but done the homework and now you have given us the means to get on and do!
Prime Minister, the last time you and I met I had tried hard to thank you and your Government for your decisions to back us with our projects. I had prepared a little speech but, if you remember, I only succeeded in getting choked up…but you gained an insight into what it has meant to us, I think. Today, I hadn’t wanted to miss out in putting those thanks into a more articulate fashion and get my words right. And it is with delight I present a small Ōpōtiki flavoured gift for you and your whānau.