Hamilton's planned $3.3 billion transport hub has jumped its biggest regulatory hurdle and now faces only resource consenting before it becomes a reality.
The commercial development arm of Waikato-Tainui, Tainui Group Holdings (TGH), together with Chedworth Properties, is planning the more than 600 hectare commercial and residential development at Ruakura, on the east side of Hamilton. The project skipped years of Hamilton City Council red tape when it was listed as a project of national significance by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).
The EPA established a independent Board of Inquiry to consider the request for a crucial change to the Hamilton city plan. That plan change was given the go-ahead yesterday by the board.
The only hurdle left for the project to jump is resource consenting, although TGH chief executive Mike Pohio will wait before beginning the next phase.
He said the group was "very, very pleased" that the decision had come, but would wait until the mandatory 15-day period for appeals to the High Court had passed before starting on consents.
He said TGH also needed to get a good grasp of the more than 500 pages of ruling that accompanied the decision.
"We're just going through it with a fine-toothed comb making sure that we understand whether there are any substantive changes or steps before we apply for our resource consent process," he said.
The Ruakura Inland Port project has been in the pipelines for more than five years. It faced the possibility of almost a decade of waiting for Hamilton City Council to make a crucial plan change that would allow the consenting process to kick off.
That process was side-stepped by the Environmental Protection Authority verdict, and could see the Inland Port stay on track to get underway with construction mid-2015.
However, Pohio said TGH would "draw breath" before pushing forward, and that could see some changes to the planned start of the project.
"The scale of the project and time frame in which it would be developed in its entirety is one that warrants ‘let's just re-group, understand what it is that makes the most sense for that next stage, and prepare well for that'," he said.
"So it's just appropriate that we assess and re-group and make sure that the next step is the right step to take."
The first phase of the project, an 80-hectare Inland Port and freight hub, was planned to be completed by 2021.
AT A GLANCE
Estimated cost: $3.3 billion Area: 616 hectares Time-frame: 30-50 years Estimated Jobs: 10,000 Developers: Tainui Group Holdings and Chedworth Properties Estimated contribution to Waikato GDP: $4.4 billion Source: Tainui Group Holdings website. - Waikato Times