Industrial park investment pays off

Published on 03 June 2021

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In March 2018, a unanimous decision by councillors gave our commercial company, Far North Holdings Limited (FNHL), the go-ahead to create an industrial park near Kaikohe. Our goal was to create jobs and economic growth for the area. We had already consulted with you about the proposal and of the 175 submissions we received, 140 were in support. Most agreed that a reliable (and possibly discounted) source of power from Top Energy’s soon-to-be-completed Ngāwhā Geothermal Power Station expansion made the project feasible.

We agreed to loan $5 million to FNHL to buy a Ngāwhā dairy farm for the industrial park site. FNHL would pay interest on the loan (so no financial impact for ratepayers) and would obtain consents and build infrastructure to create a ‘market-ready’ facility. We knew the project would be a gamble but trusted FNHL had the expertise and experience to attract enough businesses to make the park a success.  

And successful it is. Last week, the Ngāwhā Innovation and Enterprise Park won the Inclusive Development Award during Economic Development New Zealand’s 2021 awards night. The award reflects our commitment to partnership, particularly with Ngāti Rangi, but also with Tinakori Enterprise, the local business community and with regional economic development agency, Northland Inc.

While it is satisfying to be recognised for the great work we are doing, I’m really proud of the jobs we have already created and the knowledge that many will follow. As you drive west to Kaikohe along State Highway 12, you can clearly see construction underway. Dozens are now employed building roads, and power and water supplies. Also visible are 10 hectares of hydroponic tunnel houses for our anchor tenant, Kaikohe Berryfruit Ltd. This is a joint venture between Ngāpuhi Asset Holding Company, FNHL and Maungatapere Berries and has already employed 20 people. This sustainable, hydroponic operation will eventually provide work for up to 160 people each year, including 60-70 full-time positions. Another anchor tenant is organic avocado oil producer, Olivado. It is planning a biogas facility that will recycle on-site waste from the park, along with local dairy farm effluent, to produce bio-methane gas. This will fuel its own processing plant, as well as a Ngāti Rangi manuka oil distillery.

We need that sort of innovative thinking to attract new business and to stay competitive. To help us achieve that, Northland Inc is establishing an innovation centre at the park focused on research, development, innovation and education. It will foster collaboration, solve industry problems, and identify opportunities for park businesses. A dedicated education precinct will also provide training for up to 160 people so companies can work directly with education providers to upskill and get people into lasting employment. 

Crucial to getting this project over the line was $19.5 million in funding from the Provincial Growth Fund for the construction of vital infrastructure. I’m grateful for the faith shown by the Government in this project. In just three years what seemed to be a gamble is now a reality providing real opportunities for the people of Kaikohe and the Far North.