Port funding announcement on horizon

SHARE
Boost...PrimePort Timaru could receive a funding boost from the Provincial Growth Fund. PHOTO: CHRIS TOBIN

by Chris Tobin

A major announcement is expected soon regarding cash from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) for Timaru.

“I am just working out the finer details of this and it is likely to be within the next two weeks, related to the port,” a spokesman for Regional Economic Development under-secretary Fletcher Tabuteau advised The Courier.

The possibility is it could be related to PrimePort’s application for funding from the PGF to build a $100million wharf.

Mr Tabuteau was expected to make an announcement in Timaru on Saturday, July 25.

“The under-secretary was in the South Island making a range of announcements in Blenheim, Kaikoura and Hanmer and as it was we had to get special leave for him to do this as Parliament was in urgency,” the spokesman said

“As we also didn’t know when urgency would lift, it was too risky to book him up for Timaru, also on the Saturday, as well with flight times, and get him back also to Rotorua where he lives, so we decided to delay the announcement.”

In October 2018, PrimePort which is jointly owned by Timaru District Holdings and Port of Tauranga, was advised by the Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) that the Provincial Growth Fund would provide $90,000 for a business case on the proposed wharf.

While in the South Island recently Mr Tabuteau announced $53.3million PGF funding for the upper South Island which included $9.8million for service upgrades at Port Nelson.

Last week, State Owned Enterprises Minister Winston Peters and Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones said $39million would be spent building a new rail maintenance facility at Waltham in Christchurch.

A further $3.9million was announced to upgrade New Zealand Defence facilities at Burnham Military Camp near Christchurch and Woodbourne Airbase in Marlborough.

Commenting on the possible wharf funding, economics commentator and former ANZ chief economist Cameron Bagrie said from a regional perspective “you don’t look a [gift] horse in the mouth”.

“But if the region was up for $100million I’m not sure the wharf would be the top priority. If there was value in that the shareholders would be investing in it, wouldn’t they?

“Time will tell over the PGF investments. There seems to be a lot of fanciful numbers floating around as to the economic benefits.”

In February, the Port of Tauranga reported in its half-yearly financial report PrimePort Timaru’s earnings in the period were up 29.2%.