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Dunedin's waterfront development plan has been given a financial shot in the arm, despite a funding allocation of nearly $20 million falling short of what was sought.
Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones and Economic Development Minister David Parker, during a trip to Dunedin yesterday, announced the project would receive $19.9 million from the Provincial Growth Fund.
The allocation was just below the $20 million cap, above which bids require a more detailed - and time-consuming - sign-off by Cabinet.
The funding would pay for the first stage of groundworks, infrastructure services and the development of public space which was envisaged as part of the project.
Developments on the southern side of the basin - including the envisaged hotel, apartments and cockleshell building - were expected to follow in subsequent stages, council chief executive Sue Bidrose said.
The announcement came as Mr Jones confirmed publicly, for the first time, the Dunedin City Council had asked for $100 million for the waterfront development plan.
Those hopes had been scaled back, initially as former mayor Dave Cull was cautioned the request would leave the fund unable to allocate money to other worthy projects in Dunedin and Otago, Mr Jones said.
The council later agreed to drop the cockleshell building from the PGF bid - but not the overall development plan - as it did not offer the same potential to drive economic development, Dr Bidrose told the Otago Daily Times.
That left the city's waterfront partners with a revised bid seeking $44 million from the PGF, and yesterday's announcement was a little less than half of that.
''It's a vote of confidence in the wider concept, and it also means we can get on with more detailed design on what we can achieve with that sort of money.
''I'm confident it's enough to do the infrastructure and preparations of the building platforms on that north side,'' he said.
The rest of the project would have to wait, but the change was one of rescheduling, not scaling back, he said.
A further bid for PGF funding, to help pay for stage two of the project, could follow in time, he said.
''I think this will give us the opportunity to prove the concept, if you like, and I would anticipate if we do that, and do that quickly, the answer would be yes.''
Mr Jones - an enthusiastic supporter of the project - yesterday described it as ''ambitious'' and said it would ''start the transformation of Dunedin's waterfront into an accessible destination for locals and visitors''.
''This will bring people into the area, which will encourage economic growth and job creation,'' he said.
Mr Parker, speaking to media after the announcement, said it was unlikely a further funding allocation would be made to the waterfront project before the next election.
Asked if that was a possibility after the election, he would only say: ''Time will tell.''
Despite that, the reduced sum awarded in no way reflected any level of concern with the waterfront project, he said.
It was a ''great initiative'' that would deliver construction-related jobs and improve a ''long-neglected part of the city'', but other projects were deserving, too.
''If we'd supported that [the waterfront] in it's entirety, we wouldn't have been able to do these other good things.
''Overall, we think we've got the balance right.''