The Provincial Growth Fund will pay for preliminary work around the establishment of a Ngawha innovation and enterprise park on State Highway 12 east of Kaikohe. The $890,000 funding will help develop a business case study, site assessment, preparation of applications for a private plan change and resource consents, and initiating discussions with potential occupants, tenants and partners.
A group comprising staff from Far North Holdings, Northland Inc, The Ministry for Primary Industries, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and planning and economic development experts is undertaking the work for this first stage of the proposed project.
It has already identified opportunities for businesses in the honey processing, botanical oil extraction, bio-fuel energy and horticulture sectors. Far North Holdings chief executive Andy Nock said early interest from businesses in these areas had been encouraging and in some cases conversations were relatively advanced.
The proposed Ngawha Innovation and Enterprise Park would be very close to Top Energy’s Ngawha geothermal power station. Lower cost land and reduced-rate electricity that Top Energy could provide is of significant interest to a number of businesses in existing, new and emerging sectors of the economy.
The site is 90 minutes by road to New Zealand’s only natural deep-water port, Northport, and less than 30 minutes to Bay of Islands Airport. Highly productive agricultural land lies within a radius of 60 minutes by road.
Kaikohe also lies within a part of rural Northland that would most benefit from the economic stimulus that the proposed park would provide.
Northland Inc’s general manager of business innovation and growth, Joseph Stuart, said the proposed park would cater for potential tenants whose activities would complement, rather than compete with, already-established local businesses.
“We are eager to see activity that will expand the economic potential of the region and add value to existing businesses by helping them extract greater value from their operations,” Mr Stuart said.
“Our focus is on innovation and enterprise. We work with many businesses, both start-ups and businesses looking to grow throughout the region, that will fit the criteria for the proposed park. We are looking forward to working with cornerstone and potential tenants and are proud to be able to support a new pathway to employment and skills development in the region.”
Mr Nock said the working group wanted “as much of a ‘closed loop’ design as possible.” This would be achieved partly through the development becoming home to enterprises that could use the waste and unwanted by-products of other businesses on the site.
The proposed innovation and enterprise park is being designed to be as self-reliant as possible, to avoid placing additional demand on already-stretched community services such as potable water, raw water, waste water treatment and waste management services.
“The entire concept of the proposed park respects and enhances as far as humanly possible the environmental, ecological and cultural aspects of the area,” Mr Nock said.
The working group is already working with local hapū Ngāti Rangi on one potential opportunity.
It has started discussions with Te Rūnanga-Ā-Iwi O Ngāpuhi and hopes for the rūnanga’s ongoing involvement. Te Rūnanga-Ā-Iwi O Ngāpuhi Chairman Raniera Tau said: “This proposed project enables a greater opportunity for industry collaboration, which of course brings collective commercial, economic and social benefits for all. Being in the Mid-North we have excellent accessibility to other areas which lends itself nicely to attracting businesses into our rohe – this can only be positive for everyone. Importantly, the key to success will be maximising the strategic benefits of business entities.”
Mr Tau said Ngapuhi expected a high standard of design with consideration for buffer areas as well as restricting certain types of industrial activities. There was no reason why the proposed Ngawha Innovation and Enterprise Park could not be a functional and attractive employment area that maintained an appropriate relationship with surrounding land owners.
The working group intends that the proposed park would have a strong focus on skills development and pathways to employment.
“One of the obvious benefits of siting the proposed Ngawha Innovation and Enterprise Park near Kaikohe is its potential to bring significant numbers of jobs and training opportunities to a part of the country that desperately needs them,” said Far North District mayor John Carter.
Preliminary discussions are already underway with the Department of Corrections, local community trusts, and local and national educational institutions about working with potential investors in the area to develop a pool of skilled labour.
“This would help equip local people with relevant skills and qualifications that are transferable anywhere in the world, opening significant doors for the young people of the area particularly,” Mr Carter said.
Stage one of the proposed project is due for completion by mid-2019. If a decision is taken at that point to proceed, stage two will involve making a start on the site’s physical development.
A website (ngawhapark.nz) has been created where detailed information about the project will be stored once this has been made available.