In February 2019, government announced funding to build a new all-season, all-tides harbour in Ōpōtiki. With construction of the harbour set to be completed later this year, Ōpōtiki District Council commissioned a report into whether the harbour is meeting expectations and delivering on its intended economic and social benefits.
Ōpōtiki’s new harbour was the culmination of a 20-year vision in Ōpōtiki, with wide community support and in partnership with local iwi, Whakatōhea, who have an extensive aquaculture industry developing off the coast.
Central government’s approval of funding for the harbour was based on projections for economic growth, improvements in employment, incomes and wellbeing. The intention was that the harbour would unlock the potential in the offshore aquaculture industry and provide the catalyst for significant economic change in the district.
Ōpōtiki Councillor, Barry Howe, said that the early benefits of the harbour were already being felt throughout the eastern Bay of Plenty.
“The $100million harbour is a huge piece of infrastructure; one of the single largest pieces of non-roading infrastructure build in New Zealand for generations. And looking at the progress on site, it is exciting to see how close we are to being able to use it.
“But the harbour isn’t there to just look good and be great for local boaties. The government has invested in our vision for the harbour and that is for it to be transformational. We have a new and growing industry on our coast and the harbour is the way we make the most of that. It is designed to ‘pay its way’ by changing the fortunes of our communities,” Councillor Howe said.
The report, Te Ara Moana a Toi, Initial Benefits Assessment, provides an early insight into success so far and what that means for predictions into the future. While the harbour has yet to open, current employment is already higher than the 2019 business case projections.
“This report illustrates that both the harbour construction and the aquaculture sector have already provided significant benefits to Ōpōtiki and the national economy.
“In the report, there are some statistics about the demographics of the people getting the new and sustainable jobs (and better incomes that go with them). This backs up what I see and hear locally, that it is an increasing number of Ōpōtiki people who are making their way into these new opportunities - more businesses developing and more locals getting jobs, apprenticeships, and training. One well-known local example is Johnny Pene who started as a deck hand and is now skipper of a 30-metre mussel boat. His whānau and the whole community are proud of his achievement,” Councillor Howe said.
There is still more work to do in the future as the harbour has not yet opened and the local and international economy looks very different now than it did in 2019. However, these initial indications show the already positive trend flowing from the harbour build.