CYCLEWAYS, roads, an upgraded civic centre and upgraded water facilities in the Whakatane district could soon be paid for by the Government.
Whakatane District Council has submitted nine projects as well as some in conjunction with Opotiki and Kawerau district councils to the Government’s Crown Infrastructure Part-nerships Group.
The aim is to get these “shovel ready” projects off the ground within the next six months to keep people employed post Covid-19.
All up, the projects are estimated to cost nearly $146 million and provide 1792 jobs in the district.
Whakatane Mayor Judy Turner said all the projects submitted were “ready for action” and some had even gone out to tender already.
“As the projects are metered in the jobs they supply, we chose ones to submit that had a good number of jobs attached to them and would require a range of skills to complete,” she said.
“We wanted to provide for a range of people both skilled and unskilled.”
Ms Turner said the potential upgrade of the civic centre to make it fit for purpose was an example of this.
The civic centre is a designated Emergency Operations Centre and as such needs to comply with a higher level in the building code.
The council had been working to rectify this prior to Covid-19, but now sees an opportunity to make the building more habitable for staff.
“The building hasn’t had a tidy up in 30 years and was designed for about half the staff we have now,” Mrs Turner said.
“It’s very crowded and just not fit for purpose.”
The building doesn’t have enough toilets for all the people working there and has no air conditioning making it unbearably hot in summer and freezing in winter.
“We were originally just going to solve the air conditioning problem,” Mrs Turner said.
“But now there is an opportunity to solve all the issues we have with the building and make it a healthy workplace for staff.
“The works would also provide jobs for all kinds of tradies such as plumbers, builders and electricians.”
Mrs Turner said the roading projects, such as the widening and smoothing of corners on Thornton Road, sealing several gravel roads and safety improvements on Wainui Road would have benefits both locally and regionally.
The construction of a cycleway from Opotiki, through Whakatane and on to Kawerau would help diversify a tourism sector that had taken several hits this season.
By requesting the money from Government, the council will free up money for less of a burden on ratepayers.
“Some of our business here are on the brink, we had a quiet summer and now many don’t have that putea in the bank to carry them through the off season,” Mrs Turner said.
“I think this is really going to affect some really successful people in our town, although people are staying optimistic.”
Mrs Turner said she was extremely proud of council staff who worked throughout Easter weekend to ensure the council’s submission was prepared in time.
She is confident most of the projects will be picked up by the Government as it builds on already successful submissions to the Provincial Growth Fund.
“It was a pretty amazing effort,” she said.
“Now we just have to wait and hold our breath.”