A Food Innovation Hub in Hawke’s Bay is a step closer with the Hastings District Council giving the go-ahead to enter the first phase of the development process with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. Last month, the Government announced it would invest $12m from the Provincial Growth Fund into the initiative, a collaborative venue designed to harness and leverage Hawke’s Bay’s food, beverage and agri-tech sector potential. An earlier business case for the hub had estimated the total construction and operational costs for a 15-year period would be about $18m. The Government’s investment was contingent on the other $6m being sourced from regional businesses, agencies and local authorities. This week, the council authorised entering a delivery agreement with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, as long as the council was not exposed to any unbudgeted financial risk or future contingent liabilities. This agreement was a pre-requisite to the PGF funding being released, and once confirmed and other investors secured, the council would then transfer the construction and operation of the Food Innovation Hub to another entity. For more than two years an industry-led governance group, supported by Hawke’s Bay councils, has been looking into establishing the hub that will cement the region’s place as a centre of excellence for food in New Zealand. It’s also expected to foster innovation, and collaboration and build industry skills and competence – bringing about crucial economic benefits and employment opportunities. Council economic development manager and chair of the governance group engaged to develop and deliver the hub project Lee Neville said the facility had huge potential. “The Hawke’s Bay Food Innovation Hub will be a centre of excellence for food, and provide a place for like-minded companies to share ideas and get support to innovate and grow.” With the agreement approved, efforts will now turn to raising the $6m needed to top up the Provincial Growth Fund funding.