Nestled behind industrial sites in the Waikato is a development poised to bring 300 jobs.
The multimillion-dollar Ports of Auckland Waikato Freight Hub - between Hamilton and Ngāruawāhia - was officially opened on Tuesday morning.
The Horotiu hub will make it easier to get products in and out of Waikato by truck or train - the 33-hectare site is beside the main trunk line and just off State Highway 1.
Open Country Dairy is the first confirmed tenant, and the company's 7000sqm warehouse was blessed by members of Tainui iwi as part of the ceremony.
Eventually, the freight hub would generate about 300 jobs, transport minister Phil Twyford said at the opening.
"The economic and population centre of gravity is moving south into the Waikato. We need to support that movement with infrastructure like this," he said.
"The real story here is the indirect benefits: the boost to economic development not only for the Waikato but for the country, the ability to move freight efficiently, using a range of transport modes, reducing carbon emissions, and lowering freight costs."
Rail will be crucial to the success of the freight hub, Ports of Auckland chief executive Tony Gibson said, and sidings will be built over the coming two to three years.
The hub would be a catalyst for economic growth, he said, and is "perfectly positioned in the heart of New Zealand's fastest-growing area".
The 33-hectare site was a sand quarry, and was levelled out after Ports of Auckland bought it about three years ago.
On Tuesday morning, crews were pouring the first layer of concrete on the bridge which will be the main entrance.
Past a collection of earthworks machinery was an open shelter - a pallet store - and the 7000sqm warehouse which Open Country Dairy will lease.
To the south is flat, open land, ready for more warehouses.
Having Ports of Auckland in the Waikato District has piqued the interest of other businesses sounding out the area, mayor Allan Sanson said.
District council first met with Ports of Auckland when Tuakau businesses asked about a rail siding or container terminal in their town.
That didn't work out, but Horotiu was suggested when Ports of Auckland asked about other opportunities.
The freight hub site is unique because it offers the "highest level of flexibility", Ports of Auckland general manager of supply chain Reinhold Goeschl said.
Businesses can lease a warehouse to suit their specifications, or a group of users in the same industry, such as retail, could share a facility.
And, because the hub is within Waikato's Northgate Business Park, a company could also build elsewhere in the park, but still have access to some of the services.
It will also reduce the need to move empty containers around, Goeschl said.
Currently, Hamilton companies have to get one from Tauranga, bring it back to load, then take it over again.
Dairy and forestry industries are good candidates for the Waikato freight hub, he said.
Ports of Auckland would also be encouraging distribution centres, for example in Auckland, to move part of their operations down.
Ports of Auckland has existing sites in Manawatū, the Bay of Plenty and Wiri, South Auckland.
The Waikato hub is its fourth, and largest.