Taranaki tourism gets bulk of $20 mln boost from Jones's provincial growth fund
By Paul McBeth
April 6 (BusinessDesk) - Taranaki's tourism sector is getting the bulk of a $20 million injection from Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones's provincial growth fund to help wean the region off its reliance on the dairy and energy industries.
Jones announced funding for 11 projects today, with the biggest a $13.3 million commitment to investigating and supporting the $23 million Mounga ki Moana Taranaki Crossing project. Central government's $20 million investment will sit alongside $16 million of local investment in the Taranaki action plan to diversify the local economy away from its bedrock oil, gas, and agriculture sectors. The action plan was also released today.
"Investment will be made into an ambitious proposal to enable more people to enjoy the beauty of Mt Taranaki and initiatives aimed at transitioning the region to meet global market trends, such as those in the energy sector," Jones said in a statement. It will also create more opportunities to attract people to the region."
Since the fund's launch in February, Jones has announced $94.2 million of funding for various projects out of the planned $3 billion spend over the next three years on reinvigorating regional economies.
Government data show Taranaki's economy peaked in 2014 when it accounted for 4 percent of the national gross domestic product. In the March 2017 year, the region accounted for 3.1 percent of GDP compared to 3.4 percent in 2000. However, per capita Taranaki is the country's most productive region at $70,863 in the March 2017 year compared to the national average of $57,002 and a position it's held since 2006 when it was eclipsed by Wellington.
Jones also announced $5 million to help turn the Taranaki cathedral into a tourist drawcard and up to $400,000 to assess the value of State Highway 43, known as the Forgotten World Highway, as a tourist attraction.
Some $125,000 of the provincial growth fund will be drawn on to identify major food opportunities and another $50,000 to help develop the business case of establishing a Taranaki food network. Another $250,000 will help develop a digital tool to assess planting trees on Taranaki hill country farms.
The fund will also invest $100,000 to investigate establishing the region as a clean energy leader and $50,000 to support take-up of hydrogen technologies. Some $100,000 is also being set aside for a feasibility study into creating an innovation precinct in the region and another $100,000 for a stocktake of local Māori enterprise and education.