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Tairawhiti praised for strong leadership as $28m package announced

20 Mar 2020

Tairawhiti praised for strong leadership as $28m package announced

Tairawhiti is the first region to receive its share of the $100 million Government redeployment package with the announcement this morning of $28m to help local forestry workers affected by COVID-19.

Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford, Forestry and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones and Employment Minister Willie Jackson were in Gisborne to make the announcement. The money has been assigned to a raft of projects and will be administered through the Provincial Development Unit in partnership with Gisborne District Council. The contract between the two is likely to be complete within the week and people working shortly thereafter.

Minister Twyford praised the leadership shown by Gisborne that led to the region being first in what was expected to be a roll-out of announcements.

“Government were able to move quickly and help because of the leadership shown by local government, industry and iwi – that leadership was critical,” said Minister Twyford. “It made it easy for us to support the region.”

Forestry was first and hardest hit by COVID-19 when China closed its doors to logs, but there was plenty of acknowledgement that the wider community is now also being affected. The announcement today would assist almost 300 workers and covered roading maintenance, tree removal, conservation activities, a fast-track of the One Billion Trees projects, and retraining and education opportunities, among others.

Minister Twyford said the package was a smart way to redeploy workers, keeping them in work, ensuring money flowed into households, regions alive and businesses afloat.

“It is a very difficult time for everyone,” he said. “This is just the first step and we want to see other regions come forward with equally creative ideas that will redeploy workers in months to come.”

Mayor Rehette Stoltz said the speed with which the Government had responded to the regional request had been particularly pleasing. It had started with a call to Labour list MP Kiri Allan who quickly had a paper tabled to Cabinet and just days later Minister Twyford was on the ground in Tairawhiti talking directly to people affected by the downturn.

“The situation has changed in the last six weeks since we first started talking about this and the need will spread throughout our whole community,” she said. “Lots of industry, business and whanau will be affected. We are so grateful for the response.”

She encouraged the ministers to keep the region front of mind as they make more decisions around funding and support.

Mayor Stoltz acknowledged the many people around the table who each brought different strengths to the initiative. Ms Allan said she was always proud to go to Wellington to show how strong the leadership was in Tairawhiti. “There is a reason this region is first cab off the rank (with the announcement).” The proposal to Government had been “loud, strong and clear with no beating around the bush”.

Minister Twyford cautioned that COVID-19 would be the biggest economic shock New Zealand has faced since WWII. “It will be a test to us as a nation to see how we pull together and rise to the challenge,” he said. The massive economic packages being announced in New Zealand dwarfed most others around the globe. “We can’t save every job but we are committed to helping where we can.”

The ministers wanted the nation to be in a position to survive and rally when the economy returned. “We want the forestry supply chain on the coast to be able to roar back into life when it reignites.”

Key to any Government support was the protection of the nation’s backbone industries. He urged industries to continue to think about how the Tairawhiti region could respond to changes. “We are right at the beginning of this thing. We don’t know how bad or how long it will be.”