On the first day of New Zealand’s Level Four Lockdown, submissions opened for Te Ahu a Turanga, the Manawatū Gorge replacement route, reminding us that although it feels like life has been put on hold, there is indeed light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel.
Over the past 6-12 months CEDA, along with councils, stakeholder businesses and organisations, has been focused on a significant investment pipeline for our region, with more than $3.5 billion underway or planned in the next decade.
CEDA Chief Executive Linda Stewart believes we are in a good position to recover from the economic impacts of COVID-19.
“Significant investments in infrastructure have been secured in recent times, with projects such as the KiwiRail Regional Freight Hub, Te Ahu a Turanga and the Mercury Windfarm all confirmed in our region,” she says.
“This infrastructure development will continue to be as, if not more, critical to our economy in a post COVID-19 future.”
Submissions for Te Ahu a Turanga are due today, Friday 24 April. This connection across the lower North Island is key for local communities, travellers and distribution networks. The project is hugely significant for the region. Large amounts of skilled personnel will be required during construction, benefiting associated industries and building a much-needed employment pipeline.
“We are pleased to confirm that important project activities, in areas such as consenting, design, community engagement and construction methodology are continuing via at-home working” says Lonnie Dalzell, Waka Kotahi Owner Interface Manager for Te Ahu a Turanga project.
“We are grateful for Horizons’ support to continue the consent submission process through the Level Four Lockdown. This has meant that, subject to timely approvals, we remain on track to start construction work for the new highway this coming summer.”
Te Ahu a Turanga Alliance is committed to a ‘local-first’ approach to employment, which means more income will remain in the region, helping support local businesses. The Alliance plan to hold Procurement and Employment Open Days later in 2020, and also provide upskilling opportunities, through on-the-job training.
When completed, Mercury’s wind farm at Turitea will be New Zealand’s largest with 60 wind turbines producing 840GWh annually, enough to power 375,000 electric vehicles. The project is estimated to cost $465 million and will support the potential opening up of further investment in wind energy development in Manawatū. During the lockdown, construction works have halted, with the expectation they will resume as we enter Alert Level 3 and Alert Level 2.
“The site on the hills above Palmerston North may be secured and quiet but work definitely goes on for Mercury and our contractors,” said Dennis Radich, Project Director.
“It’s a complex project and site, and we are using this off-site time to work online with our contractors and ensure we’re well set up to hit the ground running as soon as we are allowed. The Manawatū remains an outstanding location for reliable, efficient wind generation and we’re very keen to get our turbines up and producing renewable electricity for the country’s homes and businesses.”
KiwiRail were to announce the preferred site for the Regional Freight Hub in March this year, however this has been deferred due to the COVID-19 lockdown. The Freight Hub will have access to New Plymouth, Napier and Wellington Ports making it New Zealand’s largest freight destination outside Auckland.
KiwiRail’s General Manager Investment & Capital Transactions, Olivia Poulsen, says the company remains committed to the hub and is still working towards lodging a designation for its preferred site in the third quarter of 2020.
“It is important to us that the community has the opportunity to engage with and provide feedback on the Hub in a meaningful way. Given the current, unprecedented situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are reassessing when and how we do this but hope to be able to announce our preferred site and commence consultation soon.”
Ray Mudgway, Investment Manager at CEDA is confident the Freight Hub, along with the region’s other infrastructure projects will play a big role in our economic recovery post COVID-19.
“We will see significant growth in our region once work on the ground is allowed to resume,” he says.
“Investments in logistics and transport will benefit all of central New Zealand as well as being an important and integral part of New Zealand’s transport and logistics network.”
Linda Stewart agrees.
“Investment from central and local government into strategic projects such as these, but also the ‘shovel ready’ projects that have been identified in our region are crucially important to our economic recovery,” she says.
“Not only do they get our civil construction and infrastructure companies working, they generate opportunities for our smaller business, creating jobs and retraining options, as well as signalling to private investors and our business community that our region is confident, ambitious and still moving positively forwards.”
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