$6m grant creates 30 new jobs at Cawthron Institute's new, purpose-built algae research facility

The top of the south is getting a $6.4 million injection from the Provincial Growth Fund.

The Cawthron Institute is receiving the majority, $6m, to develop a national algae centre which could create 30 jobs.

Tasman District's Port Tarakohe is the next biggest winner, with $252,000 going towards upgrading the port. The expansion of the port will support a growing green-lipped mussel industry, which has approval to expand to more than 2000 hectares in Golden Bay.

The funding was announced on Wednesday by NZ First member Mark Patterson on behalf of deputy leader Fletcher Tabuteau.

Patterson said more than 70 per cent of New Zealand's aquaculture industry was found in Te Tau Ihu (the top of the south), with a "strong research and development capability", making it ideally placed to be a global leader in the ocean economy.

Patterson said the Cawthron Institute was a world leader in algae research, and the funding would help build on existing institute work.

"We know already there is massive potential and global market demand for algae based products. This investment will enable New Zealand to capitalise on that demand, and will also produce up to 30 new jobs in the region upon the creation of the national centre," he said.

Cawthron's coastal and freshwater group manager Chris Cornelisen said the $6m would go towards building a new, purpose-built algae research facility.

"It might at first look like a warehouse, but inside it's going to be very high tech," he said.

The institute has been researching algae for many years and houses one of the largest collection of microscopic algae species in the world, but the specially built centre will enable more advanced and specialised research into algae and its uses.

"We've discovered the treasure chest of algae, but we've only just cracked the lid open," Cornelisen said.

The 30 new jobs created would be high-skilled work, researching the many different uses of algae, from pharmaceutical applications to potential food applications or even environmental clean-up or plastics. He said the building was expected to be completed and operational in 2022.

Tasman District's slice of the funding would serve as a crucial in the growth of mussel industry growth, which is expected to grow from 7000 tonnes annually to 47,000 tonnes over the next 10 years. 

The region was also to receive $435,000 from the Provincial Growth Fund towards the Te Tau Ihu Regional Growth Strategy, developed between the three councils, iwi, Wakatū Incorporation, and other stakeholders.

The remainder of the $6.4m fund is split with $95,000 going to the Nelson Artificial Intelligence Institute and $99,000 going to the Marlborough District Council (MDC).

Patterson said this funding was aimed at making it easier for people in the fish and aquaculture industry to do business. The Nelson AI institute works with robotics and artificial intelligence to improve productivity, and will use the funding to accelerate the development of its AI.

The MDC will be using its funding to build a business case for implementing a digital data system which will provide more accurate data to inform fish and aquaculture industries.

The council's chief information officer Stacey Young said at the moment data collection was sporadic, relying on people going out to test sites to collect information. The funding, plus investment from the council, would go towards the council's Smart Services project, looking to install remote sensors to all Marlborough Sounds marine farms.

The sensors would collect data and constantly and remotely supply it back to the council, for use by aquaculture or environmental researchers or businesses.

Young said the Cawthron Institute estimated the services could lift greenshell mussel production by up to 50 per cent.

Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash said the investment from the growth fund would be "a welcome shot in the arm" for the primary sector in the top of the south.

"Land-based primary industries across Te Tau Ihu have struggled with drought and fires, and aquaculture has suffered problems with algal bloom and warmer ocean temperatures," he said.

"There is a bright future for aquaculture highlighted by strong forecasts of export growth for seafood in key markets, especially China, the US and Europe. This investment will make a real difference."

 - Stuff

SKARA BOHNY

Last updated 17:23, Apr 17 2019