Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones says he has never attended a funding announcement quite like the one in Gore last week.
The minister was in Gore to announce that two district projects will benefit from a $3.7million Government injection.
The money will come from the Government’s $3billion Provincial Growth Fund (PGF).
Hokonui Huanui, a project aimed at ensuring local young people have the skills to take up jobs, received $2.1million, and the Maruawai Project, a major upgrade of the Hokonui Moonshine Museum and Gore’s heritage precinct, received $1.6million.
Mr Jones said he had been in politics since 2005 and had not known a funding announcement to receive such attention.
“To be honest with you, they have not had this profile and there certainly has never been a haggis ceremony accompanied by a kapa haka group .
“I’ve never ever seen this ever before, the blend of the Scottish heritage and the tangata whenua,” he said.
The morning’s programme started with a powhiri led by the Hokonui Runanga and the Colman-Clarke family kapa haka group.
Kaumatua John Rogerson welcomed the minister with whaikorero and Gore Mayor Tracy Hicks presided over the proceedings.
After speeches, the programme finished with Hokonui Celtic Pipe Band member Chloe Taylor (14) piping in the haggis and John Falconer quoting Robert Burn’s Address to a Haggis
More than 100 people, representing different community groups, were present.
When Mr Jones heard about the Hokonui Huanui programme’s work to support young people who were known as Neets (Not in employment, education or training), he was keen to help.
“[In] your area there are 13 or 14% of young men and women in that space where the prospect is the devil will make mischief out of idle hands.
“Once I was alerted to that I wanted to swing into action.
“They’re on the side of the road, I will gladly put my hand up.
“I don’t care if they are black, blue or brindle, that is irrelevant to me, and, if anything, I would like to see the infusion of our provincial growth in the area of Neets grow.”
Investing in the Maruawai project was helping to boost the district’s economy.
“This is an attempt on our part .. to enable Gore to attract and maintain more of the tourism traffic and to ensure that more people take time to spend their money.”
Mr Hicks said the Hokonui Huanui was about a community approach to growing children to become responsible adults.
“It takes a community to raise a child.
“We need a process in place in this community to make sure that when they get to the point of engaging and being constructive citizens they’ve got what it takes,” Mr Hicks said.
It was great to see the Government willing to invest in the programme, he said.
Arts and heritage curator Jim Geddes said the growth fund investment in the heritage precinct would enable the revitalisation of existing facilities and put Gore firmly on the map as a visitor destination.
Stage 1 involves the redevelopment of the Hokonui Moonshine Museum and establishment of a boutique distillery producing Hokonui.
“This is a golden opportunity to tell a unique Southland story really well.
“It will present a rich tapestry of local stories and give visitors an in-depth understanding of the place we live in Maruawai, Valley of Water,” Mr Geddes said.
Eastern Southland Community of Learning lead principal Annie Nelson has been part of the Hokonui Huanui since its inception.
Mrs Nelson said she thought the funding for the project was “outstanding”.
“I knew the project was worthy but sometimes when people aren’t living it they can’t see the value.
“I can see the minister really took it seriously,” Mrs Nelson said.