A large mussel farm off the eastern Bay of Plenty could be a game-changer for the region, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce says.
Plans to build the 3800ha 6km off Opotiki are well under way.
But central to its success is the Opotiki Harbour Development Project to improve the harbour entrance and build a commercial wharf to support processing facilities for the marine farm.
Mr Joyce said the government was committing up to $3 million to investigate whether that part of the project was viable.
He said the marine farm could create a few hundred jobs and bring millions of dollars into the local economy.
"The idea is that we do a validation particularly of the Opotiki Harbour project, things such as geo-technical access, design of the harbour entrance, and that'll happen at the same time as the commercial partners are doing their own proof of concept of the marine farm off shore and ensuring that that's commercially viable.
Mr Joyce said they would know within two years whether or not the marine farm would go ahead and it was a very big deal.
"It will be a significant change to the economic fortunes of the eastern Bay of Plenty and that's why the government is probably going a bit further forward on this one than we'd go on many other local infrastructure projects."
The government intended to put in about $20m, he said.