Venture Taranaki Chief Executive Justine Gilliland has welcomed the visit to the region by Regional Economic Development Minister Hon Shane Jones, and the package of announcements of Provincial Growth Fund investments into the region’s economy.

“The announcements made by Minister Jones are important investments in our region and support key areas of our regional economy with strong growth potential,” Justine said.

The major announcement was a $19.13 million upgrade of facilities on Mount Taranaki, made in partnership with Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage and expected to deliver a $3.7m annual boost to the regional economy through increased visitor numbers. The Provincial Growth Fund will contribute $13.3 million to the project.

“Mount Taranaki is a unique and significant figure in our region and our regional mythology. This investment into Egmont National Park will see Taranaki better prepared to meet growth as the Taranaki Crossing gains momentum.”

“Enhancements to visitor infrastructure will help deliver a positive visitor experience, while offering the ability to communicate stronger cultural, environmental, and safety messages around using the mountain.”

“As we move into summer it is timely to see progress, though work will largely begin after this summer’s peak,” Justine said.

Also with a strong connection to the visitor industry, $60,000 was announced towards a feasibility study into the expansion of New Plymouth Airport’s runway.

“This is a a smart response to the substantial and sustained growth in the number of travellers passing through the airport,” Justine said.

“As the major investment into the airport terminal progresses, it is important that opportunities to extend the ability of aircraft able to utilise the airport in a wider range of weather conditions, are fully investigated.”

The announcement of a $250,000 grant to FirstGas for H2 exploration builds on the momentum around hydrogen development in the region.

“Venture Taranaki launched the H2 Taranaki Roadmap in March, in partnership with Hiringa Energy and New Plymouth District Council. The Roadmap identified significant potential for the skills, expertise and infrastructure already in Taranaki to be applied to hydrogen energy, and the work done by FirstGas to champion this project is a fantastic example.”

A further $300,000 loan from the Provincial Growth Fund is being made available to Acos Filler Ltd, a young Bell Block-based business who have developed an innovative, affordable and low-oxygen filler for bottling carbonated beverages.

“Acos Filler has recently relocated to Taranaki and has developed technology that will be in demand by the nation’s burgeoning craft-beer and kombucha industries. The PGF support will enable them to increase their production and take it to a global market,” Justine said.

“In all, these announcements provide a valuable commitment from the Government to the long-term prospects of the Taranaki region and its enterprises.”