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Govt provides $2.5 mln to develop Opotiki aquaculture

By Gavin Evans

Dec. 14 (BusinessDesk) - The government has committed more than $2.5 million from the Provincial Growth Fund to help expand marine farming at Opotiki.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones said three projects – including studies for the redevelopment of the district’s harbour – would help the Eastern Bay of Plenty benefit from its aquaculture potential.

“Aquaculture provides one of the biggest opportunities for the Eastern Bay of Plenty to transform its economy, develop significant employment and improve the region’s standard of living,” he said. “The government, through the Provincial Growth Fund, is proud to get in behind these projects.”

The local Whakatohea iwi has interests in forestry, dairy farming, kiwifruit and fisheries. In 2016 it started its first commercial harvest of mussels from an offshore farm.

Jones said the Whakatohea Maori Trust Board will receive up to $950,000 to prepare a business case to accelerate the development of its aquaculture interests and other settlement assets.

The study will include looking at the potential for a commercial mussel farm and spat-catching site, including a scientific assessment for a deep sea farm site.

The PGF will also provide Whakatohea Mussels Opotiki with an initial investment of $850,000 to progress work on a business case for a mussel processing facility.

“The government has also agreed, subject to the successful outcome of the business case, to invest up to a further $19 million to support the construction of the on-land mussel processing factory. When fully operational this initiative has the potential to create more than 200 jobs in the region year-round,” Jones said.

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Today’s announcement also includes $750,000 to help advance more than a decade of planning to make the Opotiki estuary navigable for larger vessels year-round.

In May, Jones vetoed a proposed $145 million development plan that would have used groynes to keep a river channel open to the sea. That is necessary if the harbour is to be the base for commercial fisheries.

Opotiki District Council, with $3 million of central government funding in 2015, had been working on the plan with Whakatohea, the Ministry for Primary Industries, and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Today Jones said the PGF funding would be used to help develop a business case for an “affordable” harbour redevelopment.

“This is the first step to transform the harbour into a productive area to support marine farming in the region,” Jones said. “We’re committed to working alongside the region to support this important work.”

Other regional projects to receive funding included $646,000 for regeneration of Whakatane’s town centre and waterfront, $781,700 to investigate irrigation of 640 hectares at Raukokore, and $400,000 to look at ways to improve visitor access to White Island.

(BusinessDesk)

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