180,000 Northlanders Look To Budget For Progress On Big Five
One hundred and eighty thousand Northlanders are looking to Thursday’s Budget for clear Government and Opposition support for the region’s Big Five infrastructure projects, the Mayors of Far North, Whangarei and Kaipara said today.
The Big Five infrastructure projects are:
1. The completion of a four-lane expressway from Whangarei to Auckland, including the planned four-lane highway to Port Marsden
2. Fast-tracking a double-tracked rail line from West Auckland to Whangarei, including the planned spur to Port Marsden
3. A $240 million dry dock to enable ships from New Zealand and Australia to be serviced and repaired in Whangarei rather than have to make the long trip to Asia
4. A new base for the Royal New Zealand Navy to replace that at Auckland’s Devonport
5. An expanded Northport to take the cars and containers currently entering New Zealand through the port in the Auckland CBD, and for exports from Northland and elsewhere
“Northland is desperate for help after the economic shock of COVID-19 and this year’s disastrous drought,” the Far North’s John Carter, Whangarei’s Sheryl Mai and Kaipara’s Jason Smith said today.
“Decades of neglect by successive governments means we entered the current crisis with higher unemployment and worse poverty than elsewhere.
“Now COVID-19 and the drought have truly knocked the stuffing out of our crucial tourism, agriculture and horticulture industries risking an economic and employment calamity.”
However, at the same time, the mayors said Northland was a region with almost limitless potential and which offered taxpayers the best bang for their buck in terms of stimulating the New Zealand economy after the COVID-19 crisis.
“Northland has New Zealand’s most fertile land and fastest-growing plantation forests; its most beautiful tourist spots and best fishing grounds; its deepest commercial harbour; a skilled but under-utilised workforce; and we are the closest part of the country to the wider world and just a stone’s throw from the country’s biggest population centre of Auckland,” they said.
“Investment in Northland infrastructure will deliver faster and greater returns to New Zealand as a whole than almost anywhere else in the country.”
Earlier this year, the mayors of Northland’s three district councils jointly launched Kia Kaha Northland to campaign for the Big Five infrastructure projects to get Northland growing.
Since then, the campaign has been supported by the Northland Regional Council, and supporters from right across the political spectrum, including Māori and Pakeha, farmers and city-dwellers, chambers of commerce and community volunteers, Northlanders from southern Kaipara to Cape Reinga, and 6000 Northlanders and other New Zealanders on Facebook.
In just the last 30 days the campaign has reached 360,000 Northlanders and other New Zealanders on Facebook, including its latest video, narrated by the mayors, which has been viewed by over 100,000 people. Over a million New Zealanders have been reached by Kia Kaha Northland via social media since it was launched in Waitangi Week.
“Before COVID-19, our information was that central government would make decisions on each of the Big Five by 30 May,” the mayors said.
“We are now looking to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones to clearly endorse the Big Five in Thursday’s Budget, and for Opposition Leader Simon Bridges and all the parties in Parliament to enthusiastically support them too.
“Northland is speaking with one voice and we are also listening as one community to this week’s expected response from Wellington.”