The Waikato Times reports that Hamilton’s proposed $3.3 billion transport hub, known as the Ruakura Inland Port, is closer to becoming a reality after a crucial change to the city plan was given the go ahead yesterday.
The proposed 600 hectare commercial and residential development is planned by the commercial development arm of Waikato Tainui, Tainui Group Holdings (TGH), together with Chedworth Properties. The project has been in the pipeline for over 5 years, and the developers faced the prospect of waiting almost a decade for the Hamilton City Council to re-designate the relevant area from rural to employment and residential. However, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) intervened, declaring the project a ‘project of national significance’. This allowed the EPA to set up an independent board of inquiry to consider the plan change (and ultimately, approve it), skipping years of red tape.
TGH will now wait until the mandatory 15 day period for appeals to the High Court has passed, and will then begin the resource consenting process. This final hurdle may still require significant work, as residents’ groups from the surrounding areas have opposed the development in the past.
Nonetheless, at this stage, the project is on track to get underway with construction mid-2015. Infrastructure News reports that the first phase and cornerstone of the scheme is to be a commercial inland freight-logistics-warehouse distribution hub. Over the next 30 to 50 years, the hub would provide increasing support to the ports of Auckland and Tauranga. Long-term, the Inland Port would also include an industrial zone, a knowledge zone, an innovation zone, and medium density housing.
TGH estimates that the inland freight hub will create up to 12,000 jobs, and that the project’s contribution to Waikato GDP is to be $4.4 billion.
It is positive to see significant developments in the construction sector outside of Auckland and Christchurch, and will be interesting to follow the progress of the Inland Port development over the coming months.