The Government has pledged almost $2.2 million for pounamu and technology industries on the West Coast.
Under Secretary for Regional Economic Development Fletcher Tabuteau made the funding announcement at Waitangi Day commemorations in Hokitika on Thursday
He said the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) would be giving $800,000 to Development West Coast for a Grey District Regional Digital Hub and an Outreach Hub in Westland. The fund would also be giving $400,000 to Epic Westport for a Buller District Regional Digital Hub.
A further $995,500 would be going to Ngāti Waewae from the fund’s $100,000 Whenua Māori allocation.
Epic Westport was set up in 2016, as an off-shoot of Epic Christchurch by Ben Dellaca and his partner, Natasha Barnes-Dellaca, as a centre where technology companies can share office space.
“PGF support for these hubs will connect Westport, Greymouth and the Westland district to online services to benefit business owners and entrepreneurs. Westland’s hub will be mobile, and can be moved to different locations through the year,” Tabuteau said.
It has already funded $100m for getting communities online, including $32m for ultra-fast broadband and to fix mobile blackspots on the West Coast.
The $995,500 allocation to Ngāti Waewae would allow the iwi to source and manage pounamu on their land and grow their carving and tourism ventures, Tabuteau said.
“While Māori own pounamu, it is currently sourced as a by-product from gold and coal mining, and iwi pay a significant fee to recover it. This PGF-funded project will assist in purchasing equipment to secure a direct supply, as these products are in huge demand.”
Projects on the West Coast worth more than $150m had been funded by the PGF in the past two years, he said, “and this is not the end of it”.
In November, thousands turned out at a protest in Greymouth over the Government’s treatment of the West Coast.
Grey mayor Tania Gibson said the freshwater action plan, the potential ban on new mining on conservation land, the Indigenous Freshwater Fish Bill, the rejection of windblown timber legislation, and an upcoming review of significant natural areas by district councils all had potential to do “irrevocable harm” to the West Coast economy.
The Government was “pushing people to the edge, not knowing what their future holds”, she said.
Rural Communities Minister and West Coast MP Damien O’Connor said this announcement was the continuation of the hundreds of millions invested in education, tourism and infrastructure projects on the Coast.
“This Government believes in the Coast and we’re backing it to succeed,” he said.