BY SUSAN BOTTING, LOCAL DEMOCRACY REPORTER FOR NORTHLAND
Northland’s noxious weeds, nuisance trees, roadside rubbish and a new off-road cycle track in Whangarei are getting extra attention as Covid-19-hit workers pick up tools to make the work happen.
About 165 Northland jobs are being offered in a new employment start as part of the region’s $9.32 million Government’s immediate-start shovel-ready projects scheme. This is aimed at workers who have lost their jobs or whose jobs may be at risk as a result of Covid-19.
They’ll be working for three to six months on 15 projects with economic, social and environmental benefits.
Calvin Thomas, Northland Transportation Alliance (NTA) manager, said at least 50 people who had lost their jobs would be working under the scheme. The balance came from those working with local at-risk contractors who, without this work, were at risk of downsizing or closing. The Northland councils’ joint transport group NTA is working with the Ministry of Social Development to get the workers in place across Northland.
Hands-on work has begun as 10 people start with Northland Regional Council contractors on $200,000 worth of work clearing riverside weeds and vegetation.
Twenty Kaipara workers have begun removing gum trees and wilding pines from Mangawhai community park.
Kaipara work also includes efforts on the second-biggest individual council project funding allocation in this Government spend – $1.6m of vegetation clearance and clean-up at Kai Iwi Lakes north of Dargaville and Pou Tu o Te Rangi (Harding Park) near the town.
Workers in the Far North are expected to start work by the end of the month helping a Far North District Council (FNDC) contractor with $200,000 for parks and roadsides getting extra tidying.
“This is seen as a great opportunity to inject funding into the Northland region to support that part of the community that has been impacted by the Covid-19 situation,” said Andy Finch, FNDC general manager infrastructure and asset management.
In Whangarei workers will also start by the end of the month, their projects including $400,000 for a new off-road cycle trail work connecting Tikipunga’s Vinegar Hill to Whangarei Falls – plus $200,000 of vegetation clearance and clean-ups in the city’s parks.
Sustainable procurement is a feature of the new jobs. This emphasises social and environmental benefits with a focus on local Maori and Pasifika people, women and youth workers. There is also an emphasis on workers being teamed up with businesses owned and operated by people living in Northland, with particular attention to Maori and Pasifika business. Much of the work being done will be on the region’s roads.
Northland’s state highways will get a spruce-up, with $1.26m of vegetation clearance and roadside rubbish clean-ups through NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) on this major national roading network.
Meanwhile, local district roads – which are managed by district councils – will also be in for attention with $5.46m of grading unsealed roads, spot-spraying of noxious weeds, upgrading roadside safety barriers, cleaning up vegetation along roads and getting rid of problem roadside trees. This work is to be managed by the Northland Transportation Alliance (NTA), with any resulting firewood being distributed to needy Northlanders.
Workers will also be building new footpaths in some urban areas.
Fifteen projects are being funded with $9.32m shared between councils and NZTA – Kaipara District Council $2.87m, Whangarei District Council $2.78m, FNDC $2.21m and NRC $200,000 plus NZTA $1.26m. The councils and NZTA jointly bid for the funding.
“This is seen as a great opportunity to inject funding into the Northland region…”