Zombie towns

PHOTO: Stratford mayor Neil Volzke says sales in a council subdivision are proof the town is alive and kicking. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Famously labelled zombie towns, regional centres are bearing up well through the Covid-19 crisis off the back of the rural economy and extremely low case numbers.

They are also having new life breathed into them via the hundreds of millions of dollars being doled out by the government through both the Provincial Growth Fund and shovel-ready investments.

Taking a stroll down Hawera’s High Street is not a quick activity for first-term mayor Phil Nixon.

He’s halted every few metres by locals eager to stop and talk. And there’s plenty to talk about.

The South Taranaki District Council recently got about $30 million dollars for shovel-ready projects, including $3m for its new $11m civic centre – Te Ramanui o Ruapūtahanga.

Named after the region’s legendary wāhine toa who lit beacon or signal fires to bring ngā iwi Taranaki together to share ideas.

Nixon said the development, which encompasses almost an entire block, would transform the downtown area.

“So on that corner we are going to have a bit of an open area and then to the left where we’re looking there’s going to be a cafe, further down on this side there’s going to be the iSite.