A patch of dirt in Horotiu is about to be converted into a vital piece in Ports of Auckland's growth strategy.

Construction has started on the port's inland freight hub, about 15 minutes north of Hamilton, sitting strategically in New Zealand's golden triangle.

The land is adjacent to KiwiRail's main trunk line.

A Maori blessing was conducted by members of Waikato-Tainui on Thursday morning before construction began on the new Ports of Auckland inland freight hub. From left, POAL General Manager Supply Chain Reinhold Goesch, WDC Deputy Mayor Dynes Fulton, POA deputy CE Wayne Thompson, Tainui Kaumarua Pokaia Nepia, Tainui environmental manager Dennis Ngataki and POAL GM Infrastructure Alistair Kirk

A Maori blessing was conducted by members of Waikato-Tainui on Thursday morning before construction begins on the new Ports of Auckland inland freight hub. From left, PoA general manager supply chain Reinhold Goeschl, Waikato District Council Deputy Mayor Dynes Fulton, PoA deputy chief executive Wayne Thompson, Tainui Kaumatua Pokaia Nepia, Tainui environment manager Dennis Ngataki and PoA general manager for infrastructure Alistair Kirk. Image source: Mark Taylor/Fairfax NZ

It's believed it will draw more businesses into the Northgate development zone.

"We call it an ecosystem," Ports of Auckland deputy chief executive and chief financial officer Wayne Thompson says.

"Once we build a development like this, other people will start to build around it."

The Auckland company had the 33 hectares blessed by Waikato-Tainui last week before construction started.

The project will create about 300 jobs.

The hub includes a new road-over-rail bridge that will connect the site to the existing road network of Northgate's stage one development and a one- to two-hectare container pavement.

When complete, the site will be port neutral, meaning cargo owners will be able to ship from whichever port (Auckland or Tauranga) suits their needs.

It is just one of several inland freight hubs that have been established in the country.

Tauranga and Lyttelton ports have both built inland hubs in Rolleston, just south of Christchurch.

Tainui Group Holdings has plans for one of the country's biggest freight depots and is seeking an international operator for the $3 billion development at Ruakura, Hamilton.

There is a good reason why ports are flocking to build inland hubs, Ports of Auckland head of communications Matt Ball says.

"Seaport land is so highly valued that any activity that can be pulled away from the ports is.

"It's about maximising the effectiveness of what is done at the sea."

Thompson agreed.

He pointed to the recent 7.5-magnitude earthquake centred in Culverden which destroyed parts of State Highway 1 and Wellington's CentrePort.

The quake reinforced the need for a strong port network in New Zealand, Thompson said.

Previously people had questioned the viability of the number of ports in New Zealand, but there need to be options, he said.

"I heard a story about a Maersk ship with 400 containers that had to be diverted to Nelson from CentrePort and it's going to take a long time to get them to Wellington now."

Had the ship been diverted to Napier, Auckland or Tauranga, the huge lag would have been avoided.

Top Image: A rendered image of what the Ports of Auckland hub will look like when completed. Supplied by Ports of Auckland.


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