13 Jul 2017

Govt invests millions to diversify West Coast economy

6:20 pm on 13 July 2017

The government is pumping millions of dollars into the West Coast in an effort to move its economy away from coal mining.

West Coast

West Coast: Punakaiki looking south Photo: supplied

The Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) released a study last year as part of it's regional growth programme, which found there was scope for the West Coast to increase jobs and investment.

The study identified the region could gain more value from key industries such as tourism and develop more niche industries such as horticulture and technology.

In Hokitika this morning Economic Development Minister Simon Bridges released an Economic Development action plan outlining how it could work with local government and community groups to make those improvements.

The plan set out timeframes such as improving tourists routes by 2021 and growing the digital economy by June 2018.

Buller District mayor Garry Howard said it was important that the West Coast looked at developing other industries outside of coal mining.

"There's a big emphasis on tourism and we are really keen to get [more] IT people", he said.

Mr Howard said the timeframes were ambitious, but definitely achievable.

The action plan included $15 million to replace an old bridge, a $850,000 expansion of the Hokitika Gorge track, as well as $125,000 to research the viability of a sustainable whitebait fishery.

But not everyone believed the plan was a good idea.

Labour's West Coast-Tasman MP, Damien O'Connor said the plan had no vision, and had excluded many major industries, including dairy and engineering.

"This just exposes the limited consultation that happened before the Government developed this action plan", he said.

Forest and Bird have also slammed the action plan, saying a bolder vision was needed and the current plan did not protect the environment.

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