What about it, Shane?

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IT’S now May and the new Government is six months into its term. So, it is reasonable to ask what’s happening to the Opotiki Harbour development.

Minister Shane Jones has started dishing out his millions for regional development, so why the silence for Opotiki?

Are they asking for more reports, inquiries, examinations, reports and endless go-arounds?
To be fair, the National-led Government put the Opotiki District Council through the hoops, but we did fund an initial $3 million to produce a sound business case to present to Cabinet, and from what I’ve seen the business case looks better than expected.

Firstly, the sea farming potential is much greater than previously realised. Almost four times the water space offshore from Opotiki is now considered suitable.

Development of the existing 3800 hectares sea farm has happened much faster, 200 lines by December last year and the second boat under construction.

The capital investment for sea farming and processing is cheaper than originally thought, which makes for better returns and therefore more investment.

The positive impacts of a larger sea farm area will mean well over 1000 jobs available and more processing in the Eastern Bay.

Treasury methodology backs up the impact of this investment, I understand.

The construction costs for the sea walls are higher than originally thought, but don’t undermine the investment.

The social benefit of this industry in one of the country’s highest deprivation areas is enormous. With almost 500 on unemployment benefits in Opotiki alone this is a life changer.

So, what’s the hold up?

I’ve heard the report has been to Cabinet a couple of times. I’ve heard all sorts of things to hold up the decision- none of which make much sense.

One is that they are afraid of criticism from the National party. What a joke – who’s in charge here? Being in Government means you have the right, and the responsibility, to govern, to make decisions, so surely that’s not true.

I’ve heard it’s a lot of money – too much for the Government to feel comfortable about. But the ministers all trooped off to the opening of the new Chatham Island’s wharf which cost New Zealand taxpayers $57 million.

On a population basis, Opotiki deserves more than that surely.

I’ve heard there could be some pressure from industry competitors, but I’m sure that is just scurrilous conjecture. That would be unthinkable in the New Zealand, which tops the international anti-corruption lists.

When I became a minister in Government for the first time, my husband gave me some excellent advice. He told me that the very worst decision you could make was to make no decision.

So Opotiki deserves an answer. So, come on Shane, spread some of that Regional Development Fund Opotiki’s way.

We just need an answer, now.