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Jacinda Ardern offers more money for Provincial Growth Fund

Report from LDR
Featherston set the scene for a manifesto pledge by Labour leader Jacinda Ardern, her front bench, and local candidates yesterday. But one local leader said the Wairarapa is seeking more for the area than a sliver of a $200million pie.

Ardern arrived in Wairarapa’s most southern town to announce a manifesto pledge to fund a regional economic development plan. The stop off at the town’s Fell Locomotive Museum was part of a whistle-stop tour. It took in Pahiatua, Masterton, Greytown, and Featherston before heading to Miramar in Wellington. She was joined by Phil Twyford, Labour’s regional development spokesman, finance lead Grant Robertson, and local parliamentary candidates Kieran McAnulty and Meka Whaitiri.

If Labour wins a second term, a further $200 million would back existing Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) projects to progress over the next three years. Unallocated PGF sector funding would be considered for redistribution to new regionally developed plans.

Ardern said more than $3billion was allocated to regions under the scheme. More than $645million was left in the kitty as the covid-19 lockdown struck, in March. “The PGF was only ever designed to be a $3billion project run over three years. Now it’s coming to its completion, our view is we want to keep investing in our local economies, in partnership with the local economic agencies.”

Dame Margaret Bazley, chair of the Wairarapa Economic Development Strategy governance group, said her organisation had developed a workforce development plan. “We had to scramble to decide what money we should request. “We’ve had to work very hard on that. But we’re better organised now, in the hopes the fund will continue and we will have our list ready this time.”

Dame Margaret said she was “all for collaboration” if the new model of funding is realised. “One thing I’ve learned through my career is that’s how you go forward. It always works. ”

Wairarapa organisations have received a small share of the overall pot. Many applications remain waiting on final decisions.

One successful bid near Featherston came from a $1 million funding boost for the Tauherenikau bridge section of the Five Towns Trail cycle route.

However, South Wairarapa Mayor Alex Beijen said he felt his district deserved a bigger slice. “It’s way too little and certainly South Wairarapa has yet to see true government commitment to shovel ready and infrastructure investment.”

The district is still yet to receive decisions on millions of dollars’ worth of applications on projects to Crown Infrastructure for its “shovel ready” programmes, and the PGF.