While we wait for Jones to further curry favours with our money, let’s check out this $40m investment in the Waikato’s wellbeing

We are sure we haven’t heard the last of Shane Jones and what remains of the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund from which he distributes big bucks to boost regional economies while hoping (we are sure) to be remembered fondly when people cast their votes.

But it wasn’t Jones who announced the Government is investing $40 million to develop an inland port at Ruakura.    This news was delivered by Urban Development and Transport Minister Phil Twyford and (doing good things with public money for her home patch) Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta.  No doubt both ministers will be hoping this largess is translated into votes, particularly the Maori vote.

The inland port – a project in which Tainui Group Holdings is deeply immersed – will become a freight super-hub and a future business, research and residential development for the Waikato.

This development has been in the works for years, but access to both road and rail was crucial and the project is dependent on completion of the Waikato Expressway.

A big step forward was taken in February this year when Tainui Group Holdings and Port of Tauranga announced a 50:50 joint venture to establish the port, which was set to open by late 2021 at the same time as the final section of the Waikato Expressway.

The press statement announcing the joint venture didn’t mention money, but it did point out that the “golden triangle” of Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga accounts for around half of all freight volumes in New Zealand and container volumes are forecast to grow 60% in container volumes by 2042.

KiwiRail operates up to 86 trains a week for Port of Tauranga between MetroPort Auckland and Tauranga, carrying up to 9,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units).

The Beehive announcement about the government’s contribution to the project – or your contribution as a taxpayer, actually – said the funding would come from the $3 billion earmarked for shovel ready infrastructure projects to help get New Zealanders into work following COVID-19.

We taxpayers are nudging things along with a $20 million grant to Hamilton City Council and a $20 million loan to Tainui Group Holdings to assist with the funding and financing of the road and water infrastructure.

Ports of Tauranga, Tainui and the Council are co-investing another $150 million so the project can start immediately.

Twyford said construction of the inland port will create 250 jobs, with more jobs to be created through support for the port and logistics operations.

“The Ruakura Inland Port project will provide roading and water infrastructure to help develop freight and logistics operations as the critical first stage in what will be a major new centre for the Waikato and Upper North Island,” he said.

“A new road will connect the Ruakura Interchange and the inland port to North Ruakura. When fully developed, it will become an integrated urban development with homes, business services and research clusters sitting alongside it. 

“Ruakura is an agreed development priority area for the Hamilton-Auckland Corridor Partnership, and this project is a direct outcome of this ground-breaking new partnership between iwi, the Government and local councils.” 

Nanaia Mahuta (who happens to be the MP for Hauraki-Waikato) says the projects in the programme are sequenced to develop the inland port over the next four to five years.

“This project will also address housing and transport challenges facing the Waikato. A development of this scale and ambition is a first for the Waikato, and a major achievement for Waikato Tainui,” she said.

The Beehive press statement reminds us that the $50 billion COVID Response and Recovery Fund set out in Budget 2020 earmarked $3 billion for infrastructure projects.

Ministers established the Infrastructure Reference Group to work with local councils and businesses to identify a pipeline of projects to support the economy during the COVID-19 rebuild. Cabinet then decided the key sectors and regional breakdown of funds with more than 150 projects worth $2.6 billion being approved in principle.

We can check out the announcement here.

These sectors are (excluding a $400m contingency)

  • Housing and urban development: $464m
  • Environmental: $460m
  • Community and social development: $670m
  • Transport (cycleways, walkways, ports and roads): $708m

The approximate regional breakdown is:

  • Auckland region                      $500 million
  • Bay of Plenty Region              $170 million
  • Canterbury                              $300 million
  • East Coast                              $106 million
  • Hawke’s Bay                           $130 million
  • Manawatu/Whanganui            $140 million
  • Northland                                $150 million
  • Otago                                      $260 million
  • Southland                                 $90 million
  • Taranaki                                    $85 million
  • Top of the South                       $85 million
  • Waikato                                   $150 million
  • Wellington region                    $185 million
  • West Coast                               $90 million

The IRG investments are intended to help kick-start the post-COVID rebuild by creating more than 20,000 jobs and unlocking more than $5 billion of projects up and down New Zealand. They are in addition to the $12 billion New Zealand Upgrade Programme and existing Provincial Growth Fund investments.

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