Hundertwasser Art Center to receive $4mil in new Action Plan

By Harata Brown

The Government has its eyes on Northland for regional economic growth.

Minister of Economic Development Steven Joyce says, "Local Government can do what iwi can do and what the business sector can do, and operate as a cohesive team to get things done."

Yesterday the new Tai Tokerau Northland Economic Action Plan was launched, which aims to increase jobs, income and investment for the region. This includes improving roading from Auckland to Whangarei as well as investing $4mil into the proposed Hundertwasser Art Centre set for Whangarei. 

MP for Whangarei Shane Reti explains that, “For every dollar we spend on Hundertwasser, there's $4 for the region. So the impact is huge. Just the build alone, it is a $16mil project, just the build alone is a $28mil in the local economy.”

Far North District Councillor Willow-Jean Prime was also excited about the new Action Plan. 

“The great thing for me is that the key actions detail time frames as well as the groups responsible for executing specific tasks," says Prime. 

But Northland Regional Councillor Dover Samuels was quick to question the Government's officials present at the announcement.

"How clear, make it clear, does the Parliament have sovereignty or it doesn't have sovereignty. Tell the Maori's that, tell Ngapuhi that, and we'll make some progress," says Samuels.   

The Action Plan is a form of partnership between various industries, iwi as well as central and local government. While water is also a top action priority, skills and capability is also in the mix with a new Mānuka Planting Initiative.

The Minister of Maori Development Te Ururoa Flavell says, “(The initiative), is to help those who have been unemployed for some time, and that is being rolled out at Northland College.”

But Samuels doubts whether the plan will provide benefits to some in the Northland region.

“There are still many living in poverty, and for those who continue occupying their ancestral lands, this is of no value to them," says Samuels.  

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce says trade agreements such as the Trans Pacific Partnership are key to the growth of Northland, but how that view goes down with protesters at Waitangi is another story.