A multimillion-dollar financial injection from the government is a welcome boost for the Southland economy.
Southland District Mayor Gary Tong said announcements made today by Shane Jones, Minister for both Infrastructure and Regional Economic Development, would have a significant impact across the region.
“It’s really positive news and it comes at a time when the south desperately needs to hear it,” Mayor Tong said.
“The immediacy of the projects is where the real value is. We need this economic boost and we need it now.
“The impact extends far beyond the jobs being created. It flows on to project materials, services accommodation, food – a whole raft of areas – and each one will benefit Southlanders.”
Among the projects, the Homer Tunnel will receive a $25 million investment from the government’s rejuvenation package, creating 180 jobs and improving the safety and resilience of the Homer Tunnel on the State Highway 94 tourist route linking Te Anau and Piopiotahi Milford Sound.
“It gives confidence to the tourism industry as well,’’ Mayor Tong said. “We are looking to the future and planning for it.”
Mr Jones said it was aimed at kick-starting the post-COVID-19 economic rebuild and would provide a much-needed boost for the Southland region and significantly improve the safety of the remote Homer Tunnel for all road users.
“Improving infrastructure is a key component of our economic recovery plan. This funding is an investment in the future of a critical piece of infrastructure for the region, improving safety for tourists, creating jobs and providing much-needed economic stimulus,” he said.
The Homer Tunnel safety improvements comprise a package of critical tunnel upgrade projects including:
- ‘fire life’ safety systems, including the installation of radar and incident detection cameras, remote tunnel monitoring from Te Anau, active lighting, barrier arms, and a power systems upgrade
- the construction of new emergency refuges inside the tunnel for people potentially caught during an emergency (a fire or an earthquake)
- the installation of a new forced ventilation system
- a deluge system to control/limit a fire
- an upgrade to the eastern tunnel portal area, a new viewing area, an avalanche mitigation system and rockfall protection above the tunnel portal, and dual-laning for winter traffic
The ‘fire life’ works for the tunnel will begin immediately, along with some components of the eastern tunnel portal area upgrade. Work on the remaining safety improvements will be progressed over the next 18 months.
Mayor Tong said $25 million funding approved for flood protection measures in Southland extended beyond the economic benefits and would keep residents safer.
“You only have to think back to February this year to know the devastating and costly effect flooding can have on people’s livelihoods and our local infrastructure. It makes sense to do
everything we can to mitigate these impacts,” he said.
Projects proposed include building stopbanks and flood protection works:
- Boundary Creek Stop Bank Upgrade, SH1, Mataura
- Gore Town Stopbank Protection – following 2020 floods
- Mataura Town Stopbank Protection – following recent floods
- Mataura Town Stopbank Upgrade – critical flood protection following 2020 flood
- Otepuni Stop Banks Upgrade – crticial flood protection for Invercargill City
- Stead St Pump Station, Stead Street, Invercargill City – replacement major upgrade of old 1950s pump station. Critical flood protection
- Stead Street stop bank Upgrade, Invercargill
- Waiau River Flood damage repairs – critical repairs following 2019 flood
- Waihopai Stop Banks Upgrade – critical flood protection for Invercargill City
- Waimumu Stopbank Upgrade – critical flood protection following 2020 flood
- Wyndham Stopbank Upgrade – critical flood protection following 2020 flood
From the Provincial Growth Fund, $1.86 million over two years has been committed to set up a pilot for the New Zealand Shearing Training Model programme, to develop and deliver a sustainable, integrated training model for the shearing and wool handling industry. The two pilot schemes will be based in theTairāwhiti/Hawke’s Bay and Otago/Southland areas.
“This programme will use micro credentialing, ‘earn-as-you-learn’, and upskilling for up to 150 new shearers and 120 existing shearers. It will target school leavers, unemployed and underemployed people, career changers and those in the industry who would like to learn new skills,” Mr Jones said.
Two Southland businesses will receive loans of up to $5.3m from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) to boost production and take on more local workers.
Alliance Group Limited (AGL) will receive a $2.8 million loan to assist with the conversion of its Lorneville venison processing plant to include beef processing, creating up to 20 new jobs and providing workers with a 10 to 12-week longer season.
Drysdale Hydroponics will receive a loan of up to $2.5 million towards the expansion of its existing hydroponic vegetable-growing operation into producing a more diverse range of hydroponically grown produce, which includes tomatoes, capsicums, strawberries and micro- greens.
Mayor Tong remained hopeful SDC projects shortlisted for the government’s shovel-ready project scheme would prove successful when further announcements are made.
SDC has applied for funding towards a $10m replacement bridge at Monowai, a $10m wastewater membrane filter at Te Anau, $19.3m for water supply reticulation work and $17.8m for storm water reticulation work.