$500k NRC grant towards $8m-plus Hokianga cultural centre

1 Mar 2019, 8:59 AM

The Northland Regional Council (NRC) is to make a $500,000 contribution to a planned $8 million-plus cultural centre at Opononi.

The ‘Manea Footprints of Kupe’ project is the brainchild of Te Hua o te Kawariki Trust and would see a cultural heritage tourism and education centre built to celebrate the journeys of the legendary Polynesian explorer Kupe.

Justin Blaikie, who represents the NRC’s Hokianga-Kaikohe constituency, says Manea will tell the stories (footprints) of Kupe using a combination of guided tours, 4D interactive performances and technology stations, all complemented by taonga repatriated from museums.

“As a local councillor, I’m absolutely thrilled that we’re able to make this contribution from our Investment and Growth Reserve to a project expected to have positive economic benefits for the Hokianga area and complement existing attractions like the Footprints Waipoua sightseeing tour.”

Councillor Justin Blaikie.Justin Blaikie ‘absolutely thrilled’ with planned $500,000 Northland Regional Council contribution to $8m-plus Hokianga cultural centre.

Councillor Blaikie says the average tourist stopover time in Hokianga is currently about six hours and Te Manea aimed to maximise and expand the economic and other opportunities that window offers.

“It should foster a potentially lucrative vein of opportunities which existing and future tourism-based business in Hokianga can tap into during those visits.”

Tens of thousands of predicted visitors to the project – which has already secured $4.6M of funding from the government’s Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) – are expected to provide an annual economic boost of about $5.5M, with the total economic impact from construction estimated at about $12M.

Councillor Blaikie says the regional council’s decision to back the project to the tune of $500,000 – confirmed at its recent monthly meeting in Whangarei – comes after it had in November 2017 allocated $40,000 from the IGR to help the project’s backers fund a feasibility assessment/business case.

“That money – allocated after a request from council’s regional economic development arm Northland Inc – was used to help with the validation of development plans, quantity surveying, technical review, architectural plans and producing high definition images to attract investment.”

Councillor Blaikie says a charitable limited liability company, Manea Footprints of Kupe Ltd, has been established to operate the business.

“Its Board of Directors includes a number of experienced individuals in the tourism sector including Shane Lloyd, Anton Haigh and Northland Inc board member Nicole Anderson.”

Councillor Blaikie says profits not required for operational or capital requirements of the business will be returned to the trust for community charitable purposes, which would be another win for the local community and local tangata whenua in particular.

“Under the trust deed, this includes any purpose which promotes the educational, spiritual, economic, social or cultural advancement of iwi and hapu in the Hokianga, including the provision of facilities or is otherwise for the benefit of communities in the Hokianga.”

Councillor Blaikie says the $500,000 NRC funding – which had been recommended by Northland Inc and council staff – is subject to a number of conditions before it will be released, including that all the other funding required for the project must be secured first.