Ports of Auckland signed a conditional agreement to purchase 33 hectares at Northgate Business Park in the Waikato to build a multimillion dollar freight hub.
The Horotiu site is close to State Highway 1 and 8km north of Hamilton, in an area with growing manufacturing, warehousing and logistics businesses.
Ports of Auckland chief executive Tony Gibson said, in a statement, establishing a freight hub in the Waikato was central to its supply chain strategy.
He said the region was one of New Zealand's fastest growing areas and a major freight generator.
"Waikato will complete our North Island freight hub network, complementing our existing sites in the Manawatu, Bay of Plenty and Wiri, South Auckland.
"The key benefit of our freight hub network is that it can be used to balance freight flows around the North Island and eliminate unnecessary movement of empty containers. By driving out waste from the supply chain we can lower the cost to importers and exporters."
He said establishing a freight hub in the Waikato will improve access to overseas markets.
"There will be significant investment in the site over a number of years, with the first step being to establish road and a rail connections," Gibson said.
"The Northgate site was chosen because it is beside the North Island main trunk line, with a direct link to our other freight hubs and our Waitematā seaport.
"Our target is to increase the use of rail from 13 per cent to 30 per cent of traffic to our Waitematā port in Auckland. The development of our inland freight hub network is critical to achieving this target."
Gibson said better international freight links will mean more opportunities for jobs.
Waikato district mayor Allan Sanson said Northgate managing director Graeme Lee raised the rail hub opportunity with the council about 18 months ago.
"Graeme said Ports of Auckland were interested in developing a freight hub at the site and he needed some support from council," Sanson said.
"We met with Tony Gibson and what they were trying to achieve fit with the long-term strategy of the council's economic development strategy."
He said the development will be a catalyst for job opportunities for those in the Waikato.
"The benefits of these high quality jobs will flow directly into our communities," he said.
"Waikato is now the fourth largest regional economy in New Zealand and we're growing fast.
"We've had a lot of small wins but not on this scale."
Sanson said he expected the initial development of the site to take several years as the infrastructure would need to be sorted first.
"Waikato is a growing district, we all know that and yes that can be challenging," he said.
"Our location in the golden triangle between Hamilton, Auckland and Tauranga, and our commitment to encouraging and assisting investment means the Waikato district has built a reputation as the go to place for investors.
"As a council, we've focused on putting the right building blocks in place so that developers and organisations like Northgate and the port want to come to the Waikato and do business. And they do, so I'm pretty chuffed."
Ports of Auckland expect to complete the deal by March 31.
Tainui Group Holdings, the commercial arm of Waikato-Tainui, had already started working on a 480 hectare inland port development at Ruakura, in Hamilton, for several years, expected to be worth more than $3 billion at the end of its 50 year build.
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Image - PETER DRURY/WAIKATO DISTRICT COUNCIL
Northgate managing director Graeme Lee and Waikato district mayor Allan Sanson said the freight hub will bring a raft of employment opportunities.