PM reveals $100m funding package for Maori

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo: Getty Images
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo: Getty Images

The Government has allocated $100 million from its Provincial Growth Fund to support Maori economic Development through providing access to capital.

It has also earmarked a further $27 million to strengthen transport infrastructure and the horticulture sector in Kaipara.

Making the announcement just days before Waitangi Day at the Otamatea Marae in Kaipara, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the $100 million would help build prosperity for Maori and help unlock the economic potential of Maori in the regions.

The sum of money is significant, and constitutes 10% of the funds $1 billion a year allocation.

In a statement today, Ardern said access to capital was a challenge for Maori landowners as the special status of their land meant commercial banks have been less willing to lend them money.

Today's funding announcement would enable Maori to access the capital required to progress projects which are ready for investment and would support moves towards higher-value land use, she said.

"An integral part of any inclusive and successful regional economic development strategy lies with supporting Maori landowners to create new opportunities that will lift incomes and the wellbeing of the regions."

She cited research from 2013 which revealed roughly 80 per cent of Maori freehold land was either underutilised or underproductive.

"Modelling of the impact of bringing this land into primary sector production and increasing its productivity showed significant economic benefits, including jobs."

Ardern said Maori had a large and growing asset base across regional New Zealand based on traditional land-holdings and treaty settlements.

Regional Economic Development Minister and the man in charge of the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF), Shane Jones, said the biggest barrier to Maori land development has been access to capital.

But he said today's PGF funding would help overcome that barrier and ensure there was end-to-end support for Maori landowners.

This would come in the form of capability building, feasibility work and the completion of capital projects.

"For long-term, sustainable and inclusive regional economic growth, we need to ensure Maori landowners are well supported to develop their assets and I'm pleased the PGF is well placed to kick-start this work," Jones said.

Meanwhile, Ardern said the $27 million in funding for Kaipara would help bolster transport infrastructure in Northland where she said their had been a "long history of underinvestment".

Just under $20 million from the PGF was allocated to upgrade transport links in Kaipara, with an additional almost $7 million from the National Land Transport Fund to go towards infrastructure projects too.

Jones, who ran in the Whangarei electorate in 2017, said the projects would enable greater land utilisation and create more resilient communities.

He added that Northland faced significant economic and social challenges. Its unemployment rate, for example, is 5.6% - more than double the national average of 3.9%.

"Investments like those announced today demonstrate our commitment to tackles these challenges and turn around the economic fortunes of the North and its people."

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