In light of recent media coverage of a proposed new harbour entrance, Opotiki District Council has clarified the numbers and reminded those outside the district of the big picture.
Opotiki Mayor John Forbes says the numbers stack up and will make a major difference in the lives of Eastern Bay residents.
“One number, in this case the cost of building the harbour entrance and running it for a generation or two, doesn't tell the whole story – we have a whole business case going to Cabinet to do just that.”
Following a $3 million funding boost from central government in 2015, Council has been working with Whakatohea, the Treasury, Ministry for Primary Industries, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and industry experts to prepare a business case in line with government requirements.
The business case details the rationale for the harbour entrance aligned with growth in the off-shore aquaculture industry.
“What that business case shows is that the numbers stack up. We are talking more than 200 jobs in the next three or four years growing up to more than 1000 once the sea farms are fully operational in the 2020s.
“Add to that the harder-to-measure jobs in support and tourism, fishing and other maritime industries and the growth potential is incredible,” says John.
For more than ten years, Opotiki has been working towards the construction of a year-round navigable harbour entrance, allowing the town to return to its historical role as the bustling maritime hub of the eastern Bay of Plenty.
The project works in parallel to the Whakatohea aquaculture development just 8.5km off the Opotiki coast.
The large-scale mussel farm already operating in the coastal waters will be the main user of the harbour entrance to bring mussels to a processing factory to be built in the town.
John says the local population is incredibly supportive of the project and understands the benefits it will bring to the whole district.
“I have no doubt that the locals here in the Eastern Bay understand the big picture and why we are driving for this. So it is unfortunate that it has become a partisan political issue which misses the real-life impact it will have here in the Bay of Plenty.
“We have been working with politicians of all stripes over the many years I have been involved in the project and the numbers stack up to all of them. All politicians want to reduce reliance on government support and provide a backbone for the regions to support themselves.
“For the mussel industry, this is already a reality. The farm is harvesting commercially and they have lines in about a quarter of their consented water space and are growing every year. Add to that the extended space earmarked in the pre-settlement Treaty offer and you are looking down the barrel of the biggest aquaculture farm in the world. All we want to do is make sure that those benefits – the processing, the support, the research and development – are felt right here in Opotiki.
“The business case puts all our cards on the table – the benefits and the costs. The numbers and the story they tell make compelling reading.”