• Patrick McBride

Westland Council ready to dig in for shovel ready projects

Westland District and local contractors will be getting an employment boost from the Covid Response and Recovery Fund. Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Regional Economic Development, Fletcher Tabuteau, announced on Wednesday that Westland District Council has been successful in securing $12 million for ‘shovel ready’ projects from the Fund. This is on top of the $1 million already announced to repair Jackson Bay Wharf.

Mike Bilodeau, part of the volunteers group on the Fox River bed in 2019. The group along with NZ Defence Force managed to clean up more than 140,000 kg of rubbish that had scattered from the landfill exposed from a weather event.

PHOTO: Patrick McBride

Funding has been announced for:

Fox Glacier landfill: Council will remove the waste material at the closed Fox Glacier landfill. Whilst the landfill is currently protected it still remains at risk of erosion by the river if an extraordinary weather event occurs. The waste will be dug out and transported to Butlers landfill South of Hokitika. This project will start as soon as possible and is expected to take several weeks to complete.

Butlers Landfill: The funding will also enable a new cell to be opened at Butlers landfill, which will extend the lifespan of the landfill for an anticipated 15 years. The project will begin when resource consent is granted and is expected to take six months.

Clean-up of Cook and Fox Rivers: Funding will allow Council to employ people to complete a follow-on clean-up of any remaining rubbish and debris deposited along the Cook River and the foreshore of the National Park and World Heritage Area in March 2019. This will provide employment in the Fox Glacier area and reduce the ongoing environmental impact from the landfill washout. The project can begin as soon as possible and will last for approximately six weeks.

Cron Street Extension, Franz Josef: The infrastructure on this road will be completed, providing safe access to the Franz Josef Medical Centre, St John Ambulance Station and community meeting rooms. Improving the road infrastructure will present an opportunity for further businesses and Emergency services to be located in the area. Council anticipates that the project could be completed as soon as the new year 2021.

Old Christchurch Road Seal extension: Council will prioritise the seal and curve easing on this road to provide a safe and more comfortable journey for road users. Construction would begin within two months on some of the sections not requiring major earthworks.

Hokitika Airport Terminal extension: The airport terminal will be extended, which will improve visitor safety, transport and freight connections and offer enhanced retail opportunities. Construction is likely to be completed by June 2021.

Hokitika Swimming pool: Refurbishing the swimming pool and building to develop a modern swimming pool with an improved visitor experience, including creating a learners’ area in the pool and an overhaul of the existing changing rooms. The project is estimated to take 6 – 8 months to complete with efforts made to minimise disruption to pool users.

Additionally, funding has been announced for the replacement of the William Stewart Bridge over the Taramakau River which is co-owned by the Grey District Council and the Westland District Council. This will benefit both Districts by increasing the load capacity of the bridge to meet the demands of heavy transport operators. It will be replaced with a modern, one- lane structure that can safely support high-productivity traffic for the next century. This project will be led by the Grey District Council.

Simon Bastion, Chief Executive says, “Council submitted a number of ‘shovel ready’ projects in response to the Government’s call for works that Councils could get going quickly after the Covid-19 lockdown ended. We are very pleased to receive this funding and it will make a big difference to Westland ratepayers who will not have to shoulder the costs. All of the projects we are getting funding for will enhance the district and help with our recovery through improving our infrastructure and encouraging tourism and investment in the long-term. The district should see an increase in jobs in the construction, engineering and heavy machinery industry, as well as jobs for people in Fox Glacier who are suffering from the loss of tourism in the area.”

Regarding the funding for the Hokitika Airport Terminal extension, Destination Westland Chief Executive Melanie Anderson advises, “This funding has come at an opportune time. Extending the Hokitika Airport terminal facility will attract more visitors and serve as a tipping point to enable other industry and community sectors to grow through better and more reliable transport options. The jobs created by increased tourism in recent times has mitigated the falls in job numbers from other industry sectors throughout the West Coast region. Tourism is a major mainstay for the West Coast economy and one that has further potential if supported beyond the current Covid-19 crisis by appropriate infrastructure.”

Mrs Anderson said of the Hokitika Swimming Pool refurbishment, “This is a positive outcome for the community. The swimming pool refurbishment is long overdue and the community deserves to have great recreational facilities. The new pool design will allow us to offer more in the way of activities and the building will be a really pleasant place to be.”