About 150 people gathered at Waipatu marae at the weekend to celebrate the completion of a number of roading upgrade projects around the district over the past year, and the employment opportunities that were enabled by Central Government funding.
In August last year $9.37 million of PGF funding was announced through the COVID Response and Recovery Fund from central government that is managed by Kānoa – Regional Economic Development & Investment Unit, previously known as the Provincial Development Unit.
A key component of the funding was the commitment by both government and council to address rising unemployment numbers due to the COVID-19 crisis.
As such, council partnered with MSD to create local employment opportunities for people who had been displaced, either temporarily or permanently, due to their place of employment being impacted by COVID-19 and/or the Government’s response to it, through its “Jobs for Heretaunga” initiative.
With the funding, improvements have been made to footpaths, the iWay walking and cycling network, and various other safety projects, including on SH51 at Waipatu, which was a joint project with Waka Kotahi NZTA.
Waipatu Marae committee chairperson Aria Graham said at the event on Sunday [June 27] that the work that had been done on the road, footpaths and lighting to improve safety had been wonderful.
“I grew up here over the road – it was much quieter then.
“All the developments are wonderful - the most important thing of all though is the relationships – all of us coming together and moving forward with the planning to make it happen.”
Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said the project arose from the community’s request to council through its Waipatu Community Plan to make the road safer for residents, both driving and on foot.
“We heard the call to sort out this road, and thanks to Central Government’s support for the regions through its shovel-ready funding, we were able to bring this project forward.
“I’m proud that one year on, despite the uncertainties of COVID-19, our partnership with Government and the community has made this happen.”
She thanked all the contractors who had been involved in this and the other projects, not only getting the work done, but also providing jobs for people who needed them.
“The Waipatu project alone has created 20 permanent positions across all the contractors.
“Through Jobs for Heretaunga we worked with MSD to get people into roles – this is not only about road safety, it’s about creating opportunities for our people.”
Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi chair Ngahiwi Tomoana officiated Sunday’s celebration and also thanked the workers who had made it happen, highlighting the importance of the collaboration involved.
“We have a relationship with council that keeps building, it’s an evolving relationship – this is another phase of building unity.”
Contractors Fulton Hogan, Higgins, ACL, Proseal, Russell Roads, Dodge Contracting, McNatty Construction Ltd, Topline Contracting and Downer had contributed to the projects that were spread across the district, Waipatu being the biggest.
In total the Jobs for Heretaunga project had created 48 new jobs.
Topline Contracting general manager Carl Webber said their company alone created employment for 10 new permanent full-time workers before Christmas who were still with the company.
As part of their employment they had received training, gained drivers’ licences if they needed them and with the support of MSD had enrolled in EIT Level 3 Civil Infrastructure courses.
As well as getting people into work, through Jobs for Heretaunga, Hastings District Council’s employment team, in conjunction with MSD, helped identify workers, and provide pastoral care to support their wellbeing, whānau, and the employers, along with career plan development and links to training opportunities aimed at securing long-term, sustainable employment.
Head of Kānoa – Regional Economic Development and Investment Unit and MBIE Deputy Chief Executive Robert Pigou said it was fantastic to be celebrating the completion of works with the community where the funding had had such a profound impact in Hastings and beyond.
“We are seeing that here, people have been given employment opportunities, and many have turned into permanent jobs.”
29 June 2021
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