The Ruakura inland freight port and commercial hub takes shapeLand use allocation plan

The proposed $3 billion Ruakura inland freight port and commercial hub development in Hamilton, envisioned to be as big as Auckland’s CBD, will be a jewel in TainuiGroup Holdings’ (TGH) crown.

A New Zealand property investment and development firm that manages the commercial assets of the Waikato-Tainuipeople, TGH has developed large-scale and quality properties such as the Novotel Auckland Airport Hotel that officially opened last year.

Ruakura is located within what is commonly called the North Island’s ‘Golden Triangle’ (Auckland/Hamilton/Tauranga), where more than two million people live in the wider region and majority of New Zealand’s economic activity, including the Ports of Tauranga and Auckland, is generated.

The ports of Auckland and Tauranga are efficient, but they would have constraints when the demands of footprint are concerned. Both Auckland and Tauranga are heading to a 50 percent increase in population and serving such would consequently intensify constraints.

It may take from 30 to 50 years for the Ruakara Estate development plan to become a full blown freight-logistics-warehouse distribution hub, but TGH chief executive Mike Pohio says the project is timely.

“In 30 to 50 years, in that horizon, the Ports of Auckland and the Port of Tauranga won’t have the ability to accommodate the flows of the freight industry. That’s where Ruakura comes in, as it represents and is a part of the solution to accommodate that future growth,” Mr Pohio says.

Asked why Ruakura has been chosen for the site development, a finalist in the Waikato Times 2011 Person of the Year says there is a need to take the export perspective.

“We need to remain internationally competitive, to be able to provide world-class supply-chain logistics. We are continuously looking for improvement, but we need step-jump improvements to have a competitive force internationally. That’s where we turn to Ruakura, a green field site with low-cost land and excellent and immediate access to road and rail.”

The proposed land uses include logistics and freight handling next to an inland port – a new innovation and research precinct – a range of new housing and residential communities – new commercial and retail areas; and open space, parks, and cycleways linking all parts of the estate.

Ruakura is also notable for housing two of the city’s key institutions – the Agricultural Research Centre (Ag Research) and the University of Waikato.Mike Pohio

Thus, the decision to concentrate and consolidate innovation and research. It also offers a number of opportunities to correct this distortion of land uses, among which would be the improvement of land use balance, providing for more jobs.

Mr Pohio says that one of the first things TGH plans to do in the research and innovation precinct is to develop retail facilities that will enable and support interaction of the people in the zone. Next in line would be to provide better connectivity to those living in the north and those that work in Ag Research, IWL (Innovation Waikato Ltd.), and the university.

Although the first few logistics tenants will be serviced by truck, once the breakeven point is met the trains going through Ruakura will stop for discharge and load of containers for or from the Ruakura logistics hub tenants.

Thus, the location of the railway line and the future Waikato expressway provides a special opportunity to set up a freight-handling facility to service a major logistics hub.

Mr Pohio says TGH is working their way to get their proposal approved. The development and proposition started five years ago with a large area of land recently transferred from Waikato District into Hamilton City, and regulatory hearings currently being held.Ruakura Estate superimposed on Auckland CBD map

By the end of 2012, the Waikato Regional Council will announce decisions for all regional policy statements with a section on industrial land allocation for Waikato, wherein Ruakura would be included.

The proposed 30-50 year development is expected to cost $3 billion for the full extent of the building construction and of course infrastructure, which would involve cost of land, roads, stormwater, waste water and railway.

Between 6000 and 12,000 new jobs anticipated to be created post-construction, noting that operations will be technically advanced, he says and expounds that the skill sets envisaged would be more for operators and not manual handlers of goods.

The early stages of development of the hub will be supported by the Wairere Dr to Ruakura Rd eastern arterial connector road, scheduled open by the end of next year, and by the new Waikato Expressway, which is expected to be completed in 2019.

Mr Pohio stresses, however, that while the expressway is essential for ultimate development of Ruakura, it is not required for the first few stages since there will be existing roading to service initial demands.

Transport officials foresee that Waikato will be the biggest generator of freight in New Zealand by 2031.