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The man in charge of the Government's new $1 billion regional economic development fund has dropped a big hint it could help pay for the regeneration of Dunedin's waterfront.
The suggestion came from Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones during an interview with the Otago Daily Times yesterday.
Mr Jones said Dunedin had taken "a number of knocks'' in recent years, from the closure of the Hillside workshops to the "brouhaha'' over a failed bid to build a 27-storey waterfront hotel in the city.
The city's latest ambitious project would need widespread support from the public, as well as civic and business leaders, if the Government was to dip into its new development fund, he said.
But if those hurdles were cleared, and analysis backed Dunedin's waterfront development plan, advocates for the project "would be pushing on an open door with me as minister''.
"It sounds like this particular proposal is heading in the right direction.
"Anything to do with harboursides ... is likely to get a tick from me,'' he said.
His comments came after Damien van Brandenburg, of Architecture Van Brandenburg, and Dunedin businessman Ian Taylor unveiled on Saturday a 30-year "masterplan'' for the regeneration of Steamer Basin.
The concept envisaged a series of signature buildings ringing the basin and a landmark pedestrian and cycling bridge connecting the area to the city, to be paid for by a mix of public and private funds.
The concept has received widespread public support, including in an informal ODT online poll in which 89% of the nearly 7000 votes were in favour of the proposal.
Key stakeholders in the area - the Otago Regional Council, Port Otago, Ngai Tahu and the Dunedin City Council - have also backed the concept, although some businesses neighbouring the potential development zone are more circumspect.
Mr Jones said he expected to discuss the project in more detail during an upcoming visit to Dunedin, as part of a wider tour of the South, details of which were yet to be finalised.
While the regional development fund's criteria were still being drawn up, the Government would respond to any "transformational'' project by looking for "an appropriate level to engage and transition such things into reality'', Mr Jones said.
Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull is overseas, but earlier this month backed tapping into the fund to help pay for harbourside development, if the city qualified as a regional centre.
Dunedin South MP Clare Curran said she could not say if government funds would be available, but she wanted to "go in to bat'' for the project and the city.
Dunedin North MP David Clark, in an email, said it would be "great to see Dunedin's waterfront revitalised''.
"I'm not in a position to comment on government funding at this stage, but as the local MP, I will watch this proposed project with great interest.''