Labour unveils $200m plan to help regional development

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Labour has announced a $200 million fund to support economic development plans in the regions, as part of its election manifesto.

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Phil Twyford and Jacinda Ardern Photo: RNZ

Party leader Jacinda Ardern and regional development spokesperson Phil Twyford are now outlining more details on the policy.

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The main points:

  • A $200 million Regional Strategic Partnership Fund to provide seed funding for regional economic development plans
  • Existing Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) projects will be progressed over the next term, with unallocated PGF sector funding to be considered for redistribution to new regionally developed plans
  • Continuing the Provincial Development Unit to work with regions to develop and implement economic development plans
  • $42 billion of capital committed to stimulate the Covid recovery and create jobs

Labour’s plan to work alongside the regions is built around five key principles: investing in people; creating jobs, future proofing the economy, supporting small businesses, and positioning New Zealand globally.

It said that over the past three years the government had made real progress investing in regional New Zealand. The PGF has put regional investment back on track through its investment in infrastructure, training and jobs – which has supported regional businesses to increase productivity and grow.

The government has also allocated $42 billion for capital projects such as new roads, schools, hospitals and shovel-ready projects across the country to help stimulate growth and create jobs as a key plank in the Covid recovery, the party said.

“Investing in our regions has been a priority for our government over the last three years and will be a feature of our Covid recovery,” Ardern said in a statement.

“The coalition government allocated over $3 billion through the PGF to boost growth in our regions. Approved projects are at a variety of stages of implementation, and will take some time to come to full fruition. We are committed to seeing individually approved projects through to completion.

“Any PGF funding that has been allocated to sectors but is not yet tagged to a specific project will be reviewed with a view to redistributing it to the regional plans.”

The party said it already has a significant pipeline of investment across the regions in a range of health, education, transport, and housing infrastructure. A core part of the party’s plan is rolling out the projects started in its first term including:

  • Allocated $3 billion for infrastructure, training and jobs through the PGF
  • Established an $8b national infrastructure pipeline of schools, hospitals, clean energy, housing, and transport projects, through the New Zealand Upgrade Programme.
  • Funded $3b of shovel-ready infrastructure projects to create and maintain jobs as part of the response to Covid-19
  • Allocated $750 million to support the delivery of new and upgraded water infrastructure
  • Investment in local schools, hospitals, environmental work, and job creation, including through the $1.1b Jobs for Nature fund

Twyford said: “We stand on our record of investment in our regions, including spending $8 billion through the New Zealand Upgrade programme. This includes more than $200m to improve Wellington’s rail network, including work on the Wairarapa line and a second platform for the station here in Featherston.”

The party’s Regional Strategic Partnership Fund will focus on strategic investments in projects or programmes that support the growth of new and innovative industries, deliver sustainable employment opportunities, and further a region’s economic development.

The party says its regional economic development policy is a more focused evolution of the PGF. Central government, through the Provincial Development Unit (PDU), will support regional economic development agencies to develop their own economic plans – identifying their key industries, investments and long-term plans. The PDU will collaborate with the regional economic development agencies on identifying the parts of the plan that may need central government support, and help to establish a funding arrangement that best fits the project, including through seed funding.

Many regions already have expertise in particular sectors such as agritech and horticulture in the Bay of Plenty, and specialist and advanced manufacturing in Canterbury, Labour says. The seed funding will help regions boost productivity and develop their particular niche areas through strategic seed investment.

Another key area is training and skills. Free apprenticeships and trades training is being offered in key areas for people of all ages, not just school-leavers. Labour is also announcing the addition of another 1000 more Trades Academy places to equip young New Zealanders with practical skills and experience, and expanding initiatives like Mana in Mahi and He Poutama Rangitahi to get rangatahi work ready and support them into jobs

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