Te Pūwaha welcome central government representatives to share project values

Whanganui Port - Te Pūwaha - Welcomes central government representatives
Te Pūwaha welcome central government representatives to share project values
Whanganui Port - Te Pūwaha - Welcomes central government representatives

Earlier this week Te Pūwaha hosted Whanganui Member of Parliament Steph Lewis, along with Economic and Regional Development Minister the Hon Stuart Nash and recently appointed Member of Parliament Soraya Peke-Mason for a walkthrough of the Whanganui port revitalisation project from the North Mole to the port rebuild site upstream.

The site visit follows recent recognition of Te Pūwaha for Best Practice Collaboration at the Economic Development New Zealand (EDNZ) Awards, providing an opportunity for project representatives to highlight the progress to date and share their experiences.

Te Pūwaha is a collaborative partnership between Whanganui iwi, led by hapū group Te Mata Pūau, along with community and project funders Whanganui District Council, Horizons Regional Council, Q-West Boat Builders and the Whanganui District Employment Training Trust. Kānoa – Regional Economic Development and Investment Unit is also a key funding partner, contributing $26.75 million to the project under the Provincial Growth Fund.

The day began with a Mihimihi and Whakatau at the North Mole. There, Te Pūwaha governance group members discussed the importance of the collaborative nature of the project, ensuring a whole of community voice to deliver better outcomes for the awa.

Governance group chair Kahureremoa Aki saw the visit as an ideal opportunity to share how Te Pūwaha could be replicated locally, nationally and internationally.

“The relational power-sharing model in which we are working is innovative to an infrastructure project of this scale,” she says.

“Within Te Pūwaha, the awa is at the centre of all decision making, as led by Te Mata Pūau, as project partners work under the guidelines of Tupua te Kawa, the innate values of Te Awa Tupua.”

“We are working in a way that upholds the kawa, recognising the inextricable connection between people and our natural environment, while developing an economic asset for Whanganui.”

“We have set in place a model called He Ara Tuku Rau based on Tupua te Kawa. It ensures we are working towards our parameters of success which are abundance in mouri ora (environment), mouri awa (river) and mouri tangata (community).”

“While this model is unique to this project, it is one which could be replicated elsewhere, as one of our community representatives describes it, ‘we are on the confluence of a global trend’. That is why being able to share our knowledge and experiences is so important whenever possible. We appreciate the opportunity to do so today with central government representatives.”

For Minister Nash, it was important to be able to see first-hand the works carried out to date and to be able to hear about the journey project partners have undertaken over the last two years.

“Te Pūwaha is a real priority for Whanganui- it will create jobs and provide significant regional development for the region, which is why the Government has invested over $26 million in this project. Te Pūwaha is a great example of the many community-led projects across the country the Government is investing in, to ensure our regions have the infrastructure they need to thrive and grow, and to boost local economies. It was fantastic to see the progress on this significant project,” he says.

While at the North Mole, Minister Nash viewed the construction work carried out over the past ten months and spoke with representatives of the Port Employment Precinct.

The works to repair and reinstate the North Mole, as managed by Horizons Regional Council, along with scheduled works to repair the Tanae Groyne and South Mole, are required to maintain the current river channel alignment at the mouth of the river. These structures are fundamental in protecting critical infrastructure from erosion and sea encroachment. This is a vital component to the wider Te Pῡwaha project through securing the port and ensuring a navigable depth is maintained for vessels. Construction works on the North Mole are set for completion by April 2023.

The Port Employment Precinct (PEP) facilitates training development and job opportunities associated with the port revitalisation project, connecting local people with training and jobs at the port and supporting businesses looking to train or find skilled staff.

“To date, approximately 100 jobs predominantly in civil construction, roading and rock works have been created as part of Te Pūwaha,” says Sally Ross, CEO of Whanganui District Employment Training Trust, the governing arm of the PEP, “with further roles in the marine industry, freight, engineering, manufacturing and construction expected as the project progresses and infrastructure is built.”

“Our staff are assessing the needs of local businesses so we can ensure there are local people with the right skills and attributes to do the work required, now and into the future.”

The group then moved to the port site to see first-hand the Whanganui District Council planned works for the wharves and Q-West Boat Builders site. These works include the development of a dedicated marine precinct with a specialist heavy pavement catering to a new 380 tonne mobile boat hoist to be delivered in June 2023.

Whanganui MP, Steph Lewis thoroughly enjoyed the chance to see the progress on the port redevelopment.

“This is a project I have strongly advocated on for many years. In 2017 I wrote to Stuart Nash who was Labour’s spokesperson for Regional Economic Development, and told him about the Council’s plan to revitalise our port. I asked him to consider providing government funding to repair the north and south moles, which needed to happen before work at the port could progress. From that pitch, Labour committed that in Government it would contribute an initial $3 million to the repairs. It’s pleasing to see that since then support from Government has increased and the partnership with local and regional governments, iwi and private businesses has flourished.”

Whanganui District Council will be tendering to market by the end of this year for the wharf reinstatement works, with construction due to commence in early 2023. In the meantime, consent for dredging and reclamation of the port basin will be filed in February 2023.

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