Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, Te Whakakitenga o Waikato Chair Parekawhia McLean and I at the announcement this morning.
Today I was privileged to speak alongside the Deputy Prime Minister and the city’s partners from Waikato-Tainui at a momentous occasion for Hamilton.
The Honourable Winston Peters was here to announce our city will receive $16.8 million in funding from the Provincial Growth Fund for key transport projects at the Ruakura Inland Port.
It is difficult to overstate how important this project is to our city. Today’s announcement, which will allow the progression of Stage 1 of the Ruakura Spine Road, offers the city and wider region a $16.8 million ‘Golden Key’. That Key will unlock the door to colossal economic AND social benefits – not just regional benefits - but benefits that will play out nationally.
An aerial view of the Ruakura Inland Port site.
The Ruakura precinct has had a long history. It encompasses not just the inland port but also logistics, knowledge and industrial zones and eventually, affordable housing through the provision of up to 1,800 houses. So this is not just an economic milestone for Hamilton; it is a social one.
For Hamilton and for the wider-Waikato this is a big deal. I believe his project, will – perhaps more than any other project on our books - transform urban development in our city. It will anchor us. When complete, the Ruakura Spine Road will provide the critical link to the soon-to-be-completed Waikato Expressway, driving freight efficiencies and supporting Hamilton’s crucial role in New Zealand’s freight and logistics capacity.
It will allow connectivity between the University of Waikato, AgResearch and allow for the expansion of the Waikato Innovation Park. It will support our city’s broader transport plans, linking to our existing bus network and strengthening public transport opportunities. Plus it will allow us to plan for alternative modes of transport like cycling and walking.
The Spine Road road will link Ruakura to the central city, enabling greater use of our city’s existing rail freight network, our road transport links and our three waters infrastructure. It will allow us to reduce transport costs and our increasing use of rail will reduce emissions.
It will also unlock desperately needed industrial and residential opportunities in the east side of our city, including over time, the provision of 1,800 new homes, including affordable homes.
And of course, this project will create jobs….perhaps right now, the most important thing of all.
Today’s announcement sends a very strong signal. The people of Hamilton and the greater Waikato are ambitious, motivated and well-prepared to play our part nation-building. In Hamilton, Covid-19 has strengthened our resolve to realise every possible opportunity for our city and our people. Kick-starting this project, alongside the Government and Waikato-Tainui, is an outstanding example of that.
The Ruakura Inland Port project has been on the books for a long time; some would say too long. Personally, I welcome any moves the government can make to stream line some of the processes which created some of those delays.
But the Ruakura precinct itself sits within a robust planning framework that has been at play for some time and which is already recognised as best in business. The Hamilton to Auckland Corridor Plan (H2A) is already considered hugely important by Government Ministers in Wellington, particular Minister for Urban Development and Transport Phil Twyford and Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta.
H2A was the first Urban Growth Partnership between the Government, local councils and mana whenua, signed in August 2019. The partnership aims to strategically manage development between New Zealand’s two fastest growing metropolitan areas.
H2A quickly identified the Ruakura precinct as a “game changer” for the Waikato and upper North Island.
But H2A itself is informed by other planning frameworks born and nurtured in the Waikato. H2A is guided by FutureProof, a 30-year planning strategy for the Hamilton, Waipa and Waikato sub-region. Within FutureProof, Ruakura was also identified as a key strategic industrial node.
The Hamilton-Waikato Metro Spatial Plan, to be reported to Cabinet in July, has been a huge piece of work. Here in the Waikato, we have the Waikato Plan – an overarching blueprint developed by the region’s leaders from all sectors – not just from local government - to support development that contributes to social, economic, environmental and cultural wellbeings.
We have a Waikato Economic Strategy, driven now by Te Waka, our regional development agency.
These complex plans are all linked. And they are wholly reliant on the one thing that no-one and no organisation can ever put a price on – partnerships.
In Hamilton, we are fortunate to have incredibly strong partnerships with central government. This is something we value, something we work on every day and something we don’t take for granted. We’re in the business of building New Zealand together, and Hamilton wants to, and is, playing its part.
Projects like the Ruakura Inland Port don’t happen because of common problems; they happen because of common interests. From Auckland, to Hamilton, to Wellington AND beyond….we all have an interest in seeing this project succeed.
Today it was an absolute pleasure to congratulate one of the city’s most important partners. Waikato-Tainui has had the foresight, the vision and the patience to drive this project hard because it will deliver value for their people. And it will therefore deliver value for our people and for our city. And because of that, it will deliver value for our country.
Haere taka mua, taka muri, kaue e whai.
Be a leader not a follower.
That is what Waikato-Tainui has done and we are all reaping the rewards of that leadership. and of the partnership Waikato-Tainui shares with Hamilton City Council.
I look forward to working with Tainui Group Holdings and progressing a business case to think beyond Stage 1 of this project and onto Stage Two, from Silverdale Road in the south, to Gordonton Road in the north.
Today was yet another great day to be the Mayor of Hamilton.
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, Te Whakakitenga o Waikato Chair Parekawhia McLean and me at the announcement this morning.