Today was a historic one for Hamilton with the government announcement that has pushed ‘go’ on the Ruakura inland port and industrial precinct.
Minister for Urban Development and Transport Phil Twyford has confirmed government will invest $40 million in ‘shovel-ready’ projects to help fast-track Ruakura. The $40 million comprises a $20 million grant to Hamilton City Council and a $20 million loan to Tainui Group Holdings (TGH).
The money will help fund transportation, bulk infrastructure and environmental protection works. That includes work on the Mangaonua Watercourse and a fabulous 10-hectare wetland. All the consenting processes are in place and the projects are designed and ready to start.
This is fantastic news. It will directly create around 250 full-time equivalent jobs over three-years in our city. And that’s not including jobs created by the port operation and planned logistics buildings.
Parekawhia McLean, Chair of Te Whakaakitenga o Waikato, described the investment as a “major statement of confidence in Hamilton”. I agree! That confidence will flow through to our business community and wider community. It also mirrors the huge financial investment Waikato-Tainui has already made in Ruakura.
The $40 million investment will provide critical support for one of the most important long-term projects for our city and the wider region, with far-reaching economic, environmental and social benefits. It has taken 15 years to get to this point, including finalising the Waikato Expressway on the eastern boundary which will open next year and is essential for the inland port operation.
It also illustrates how local and central government can (and must) work together with partners to get great outcomes. Ruakura is just one of a number of significant initiatives our Council is working on in partnership with central government as part of the Hamilton to Auckland Corridor Plan and the Hamilton-Waikato Metro Spatial Plan.
Today the Minister said Ruakura is an agreed development priority area for the Hamilton-Auckland Corridor Plan, noting “this project is a direct outcome of this ground-breaking new partnership between iwi, the Government and local councils.” That’s a very strong endorsement for the work our council, and other councils are doing. However, Hamilton is determined to keep looking further ahead – even as Ruakura develops – so we can plan for transport connections to keep our city moving and economy growing.
TGH Chief Executive Chris Joblin has confirmed the funding announced today means Ruakura will open for business 1-2 years sooner than previously planned which is very positive for medium and large scale importers and exporters. So this really is a huge vote of confidence in Hamilton-Kirikiriroa.
TGH and HCC will now move to finalise contracts and invite tenders for construction work for the current earthworks season.
The port itself
In June of this year, the Ruakura Inland Port project secured $16.8 million of funding from the Provincial Growth Fund. That’s because this development is not important just to our city and our region – but nationally. Ruakura is huge, on a national scale. It is one of New Zealand’s largest developments, spanning industrial, commercial, retail and residential development areas. It will be anchored by a 30-hectare inland port, with the first 17-hectare stage now in development by TGH and Port of Tauranga, in a 50/50 joint venture announced earlier this year.
The inland port will be serviced by high-capacity rail and roading infrastructure, with the East Coast main trunk rail line running along the Port’s northern boundary and the new Waikato Expressway on the eastern boundary. Initially, rail services will be provided by the existing MetroPort trains running between Auckland and Tauranga.
The Ruakura precinct will accommodate 6,000-12,000 jobs once it is fully developed (in around 2060) and will have huge social and economic benefits for Waikato iwi, Hamilton, the region and New Zealand as a whole.
You can find a bit more information about today’s announcement here.