Economic opportunities for East Coast

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee and Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce have released a study of the East Coast region’s economic potential over the next 30 years.

The East Coast Regional Economic Potential Study assesses the region’s economic performance and barriers to development, and models five economic growth scenarios along with their implications for transport infrastructure and the skills needed.

Mr Brownlee says the study shows the economic importance of maintaining and boosting the road network in the East Coast, particularly in Gisborne.

“There will be an increase in logging freight over the next decade and improved roading will be vital to support that and other industries,” Mr Brownlee says.

“The study illustrates the need to develop further capacity for heavy vehicles on State Highway 35 north of Gisborne and to maintain the quality of State Highway 2 between Gisborne and Napier, and northwest of Gisborne to the Bay of Plenty.

“I will be asking the New Zealand Transport Agency to review its plans for these highways in light of this study.”

The report also concludes there is little evidence to support the case for reinstatement of the damaged rail line from Gisborne to Napier.

“When operational, rail only accounted for 2 to 3 per cent of freight from the region and the report finds no clear evidence of a significant economic impact following its closure,” Mr Brownlee says.

Mr Joyce says the East Coast already has a strong primary sector ranging from forestry, livestock farming and meat processing to horticulture, viticulture and food and beverage manufacturing, and the report shows there was potential to develop more innovative, higher-value processing to support these industries.

“The report also notes other economic opportunities such as the untapped potential to attract international tourists, and the development of the oil and gas industry. Large scale oil and gas production would result in the local economy growing by 27 per cent with an additional 3,300 jobs,” Mr Joyce says.

Mr Joyce says up-skilling the existing East Coast workforce and attracting skilled workers to the region were fundamental to economic growth.

“The study has shown emerging skill shortages across the spectrum, without which the region cannot grow. Over the next decade there is expected to be greater demand for managers, engineers, transport specialists, machine and plant operators, and labourers in forestry and wood processing. Some of these skills will need to come from outside the region but there are excellent opportunities to further lift training, particularly for young Maori,” Mr Joyce says.

“The Government is in the process of rolling out its $43 million investment in the Maori and Pacific Trades Training initiative, with groups in the East Coast and Hawke’s Bay that involve iwi already signed up. This will help industries on the East Coast get employees with the skills they need.

“This report will help the East Coast to assess whether it wants to take up the opportunities for jobs and economic growth in its region.”

The study was jointly commissioned by the Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment in collaboration with the Gisborne, Napier, Hastings and Wairoa District Councils, the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, and Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Porou, Te Rūnanga o Turanganui a Kiwa and Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Incorporated.

It forms part of a series of regional economic growth studies that will be commissioned by the Government in partnership with regional stakeholders. A request for proposal the Northland study was announced earlier this month.

The report is here.

The report found little evidence to support the case for reinstating the damaged rail link between Gisborne and Napier.

But Wayne Walford, National’s candidate for Napier, has a plan for the line:

The mothballed Napier to Gisborne railway could get a facelift and become a cycling track.

National’s Napier candidate Wayne Walford is seeking online public support for a “Sunrise Rail Trail” cycling track linking Napier and Gisborne.

“I think a cycleway down the east coast would be simply stunning,” Mr Walford said yesterday , adding it would be the only fly-in and fly-out cycling trail in the country as there were airports at both ends.

“I’ve launched the Sunrise Rail Trail [Facebook] page to gauge support for the idea.” . . .

That’s a much better, and less expensive plan, than Labour’s which is to reopen the line even though the case to do so is weak.

The Sunrise Rail Trail Facebook page is here.

 

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