Robertson hints at more PGF money

Grant Robertson. Photo: ODT files
Grant Robertson. Photo: ODT files
Finance Minister Grant Robertson has hinted during a visit to Invercargill that Southland could get more funding.

At an event hosted by the Otago Southland Employers' Association yesterday, he said the Government had plans to stimulate the whole region.

Southland had been awarded more than $20 million from the Provincial Growth Fund this year, and more support could be on its way, he said.

In July an investment of $500,000 was announced for Invercargill Airport, to bolster regional flights.

He also said the knock-on effects could alleviate pressure on Queenstown Airport.

''[From] what we saw today, there is a good tourism offering across the region, but it is about to put in a full destination plan, and saying how we want to work ... I'm really encouraged by what I saw here.''

Mr Robertson believed the region needed to focus on its strengths.

Southern Institute of Technology was also a hot topic during the event.

Mayor Tim Shadbolt said Southland seemed to be ''punished'' for being so successful.

Sir Tim said during a previous meeting, Education Minister Chris Hipkins acknowledged it was unfair.

Mr Robertson defended the vocational reform and said he ''really believed'' this model would be good for the country and for SIT.

He would meet chief executive Penny Simmonds to discuss her concerns.

''We have the opportunity to support SIT to continue to be a really strong regional provider, to be able to support autonomy as far as they can go, and to make sure to continue to feel ownership of their institution.''

Mr Robertson also assured farmers the Government would support them in relation to proposed new freshwater rules.

The budget already allocated $220 million to support shifts in land use, but he recognised it would need a ''long-term partnership with the farming community'' to create a farm environment management plan.

''As a country, improving the quality is essential not just for health and wellbeing but it is also how we trade with the world. We trade on the basis of a clean, green country and our water quality needs to support this.''

luisa.girao@odt.co.nz

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