Mak­ing a dif­fer­ence

The Northland Age - - Local Life / Opinion -

Our Prime Min­is­ter, Jacinda Ardern, made some big an­nounce­ments when she at­tended the Wai­tangi Day cel­e­bra­tions last week. Each of those an­nounce­ments will have a pos­i­tive im­pact on both North­land, and the rest of the coun­try, and are amongst the lat­est ini­tia­tives be­ing sup­ported by the Pro­vin­cial Growth Fund.

Te Ara Mahi is an $82 mil­lion pro­gramme that will help get my neph­ews — and pos­si­bly yours too — off the couch and into pro­duc­tive work. Te Ara Mahi will sup­port peo­ple who are at risk of long-term un­em­ploy­ment through­out the coun­try, but it will have a much big­ger im­pact in the North, es­pe­cially the Far North, be­cause of our high rates of un­em­ploy­ment.

It will also help em­ploy­ers who are strug­gling to find work­ers, or who need help to sup­port new em­ploy­ees who have been un­em­ployed for some time or never ac­quired the skills to hold down steady work.

Too many of our young peo­ple have fallen through the cracks, leav­ing school with­out qual­i­fi­ca­tions or many of the ba­sic life skills needed to make a liv­ing. Te Ara Mahi will sup­port peo­ple to rem­edy those deficits in a dig­ni­fied and pos­i­tive way.

In North­land we also have a lot of Ma¯ori land that isn’t be­ing used to its full po­ten­tial. Top-class hor­ti­cul­tural land may be used for graz­ing sheep and cat­tle. Or sheep and cat­tle or dairy farms are per­haps not be­ing run ef­fi­ciently be­cause of a lack of in­vest­ment. With mul­ti­ple land own­ers and a dif­fer­ent le­gal struc­ture, it can be hard to get fi­nance from tra­di­tional lenders to in­vest in this land.

Sup­port­ing Ma¯ori eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment is a key fo­cus of this govern­ment’s re­gional de­vel­op­ment ef­forts. That’s why we have es­tab­lished the Whenua Ma¯ori Fund, which will pro­vide $100m from the Pro­vin­cial Growth Fund to part­ner with Ma¯ori and help un­lock the po­ten­tial in their land.

Also an­nounced was in­vest­ment to help some North­land and Far North com­mu­ni­ties to grow and con­nect with the wider world.

In Kaipara the PGF is in­vest­ing more than $20.3m in up­grades to the road­ing net­work, wharves and wa­ter trans­port. This will sup­port lo­cal in­dus­try and make the roads safer for all res­i­dents.

Just un­der $1m will be used to sup­port Kaipara Kai, a project to look at pos­si­ble new crops, stock types and aqua­cul­ture for the re­gion.

An­other $21m is be­ing in­vested na­tion­ally to im­prove dig­i­tal con­nec­tiv­ity, by con­nect­ing marae to fast in­ter­net and es­tab­lish­ing Re­gional Dig­i­tal Hubs to pro­vide peo­ple and busi­nesses with ac­cess to dig­i­tal ser­vices. Two North­land marae, Orama­hoe, near Mo­erewa, and Te Houhanga, at Dar­gav­ille, are among the first to be con­nected.

These in­vest­ments won’t make up for years of ne­glect from suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments on their own, but they will make a dif­fer­ence.

I look for­ward to mak­ing more an­nounce­ments from the PGF that help to close that gap, both in North­land and other ne­glected parts of our coun­try.

"In Kaipara the PGF is in­vest­ing more than $20.3m in up­grades to the road­ing net­work, wharves and wa­ter trans­port."

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