Whakatāne Mayor Tony Bonne says the confirmation of a $646,000 Provincial Growth Fund grant to assist the preparation of a business case for a transformational waterfront and town centre regeneration project is great news for the District and the wider Eastern Bay of Plenty.

“The Eastern Bay’s three councils, the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, iwi, economic development agencies and business stakeholders are working collaboratively to secure PGF support for a range of initiatives which will create jobs and address our social and economic challenges,” he says. “This grant will help us deliver a compelling business case for investment in growing our tourism and marine economy and we look forward to working with central government to make this game-changing project a reality.”

Mayor Bonne says regional growth studies have identified tourism and waterfront development as key economic drivers which will help unlock the Whakatāne District’s potential.

“The Council has formed a joint governance group with Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Awa Group Holdings to oversee the development of wharf facilities and related waterfront development options. The replacement of our aging main commercial wharf is a cornerstone of this project, but other key outcomes will be a multi-functional, mixed-use waterfront development and a revitalised town centre which will provide opportunities for new commercial activities and tourism offerings, create jobs and contribute to a growing economy,” he adds. “It will also provide an opportunity to restore our natural and cultural connections with the Whakatāne River.”

He says Whakatāne has positioned itself as the gateway to Whakaari/White Island’s unique tourism experience and the waterfront and town Centre Regeneration programme will add to momentum to the marketing efforts of tour operators, Tourism Bay of Plenty and Tourism New Zealand.