New $79.4 million Ōpōtiki Harbour could create 2,000 jobs

By Jessica Tyson

A project costing $79.4 million to build a new harbour in Ōpōtiki is expected to create around 2,000 jobs to one of the country's towns with the highest levels of social and economic deprivation.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones announced the "game-changing" project today, saying it will revitalise the township of Ōpōtiki and the wider Eastern Bay of Plenty.

“Given Ōpōtiki has one of the country’s highest levels of social and economic deprivation, with low household incomes, high unemployment and below-average educational outcomes, new employment in town will make a big impact on wellbeing and social participation," Jones says.

“The project is expected to create around 1,850 jobs, including over 730 in Ōpōtiki.

"Around 200 jobs will be created during the building phase through work on the harbour construction.

"Direct employment in Ōpōtiki longer term will be driven by work on sea farm servicing vessels, production staff in processing facilities and support staff in the aquaculture industry."

Minister Jones says that the harbour will enable significant aquaculture initiatives in the region to get underway, such as mussel farming.

“World demand for sustainable seafood is increasing rapidly and large scale aquaculture requires a safe, accessible harbour for harvesting produce and servicing boats.

"Today’s announcement will provide safe access for more boats into the harbour allowing Ōpōtiki to become a major servicing base for aquaculture and other marine-related industries," he says.

Jones explains that the funding is part of the $12 billion New Zealand Upgrade programme announced in January as part of the Provincial Development Unit.

“Ōpōtiki Harbour has been in the pipeline for such a long time with successive governments unable to make the project stack up.

"With the full attention of officials from the Provincial Development Unit, including engineer Rosie Mercer from the Fund’s Independent Advisory Panel, we have been able to develop a concept that is fit-for-purpose yet affordable."

Ōpōtiki Mayor, Lyn Riesterer said she was thrilled with today’s announcement.

"We are more than ready to grab this opportunity with both hands – get our rangatahi into real, long term and meaningful work.

"I can’t wait to see the innovative future we build for ourselves with this kick start,” Riesterer says.

Former Mayor, John Forbes, has advocated for this outcome for more than 20 years and said it was a proud moment for the whole community.

“This project is an excellent example of central, regional and local government working together in partnership with iwi, industry and private businesses to bring the best outcome not just for us here in Ōpōtiki, but also for the region and for the nation."

Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash said the investment was closely aligned with the Government’s strategy to grow the aquaculture industry to $3 billion by 2035.

“A new harbour in Ōpōtiki is critical infrastructure that will enable aquaculture growth and help realise meaningful jobs, wellbeing and prosperity for the people of the region,” Nash says.