BIG COUNTRY

Published date01 October 2022
Publication titleWhanganui Chronicle
That’s what Tainui Group Holdings (TGH), the commercial arm of Waikato-Tainui, discovered 16 years ago when it unveiled a 50-year vision for a supply-chain support behemoth nudging 500 hectares at Ruakura, Hamilton

But TGH has hung on and today the first buildings are rising at the Ruakura Superhub, predicted to be an economic powerhouse not just for the Waikato region, but for NZ Inc.

Everything about Ruakura is big. It will incorporate a 30ha inland port, a 167ha industrial and logistics park, 108ha knowledge zone, more than 3000 new homes, a 5ha retail and service centre, 50ha of green space, and create up to 12,000 jobs.

But the biggest challenge for the comparatively tiny TGH in getting to this month’s official opening has not been keeping faith in its vision through years of red tape and local politics — or even the investment required.

It’s been getting people to understand the opportunity of Ruakura, says TGH chief executive Chris Joblin.

“At different stages there have been different challenges but the biggest has been getting people to realise what we see. When you can go from telling people to showing people, you get that mindshift.”

The challenge was the same back in 2006 when Ruakura was just a glint in the eye of Joblin’s predecessor Mike Pohio.

It was Pohio, now chief executive at Ngāi Tahu’s headquarters in Christchurch, who came up with the idea of a master-planned, purpose-built future for the Ruakura land returned to Waikato-Tainui as part of the 1995 Treaty of Waitangi settlement.

He recalls Boffa Miskell, one of TGH’s main consultants on Ruakura, in 2007 calling a “charrette”, the term for a gathering in a room of all the technical experts needed for a major project.

They were asked to identify issues and practicalities and how the road to resource-consent applications for Ruakura might be approached.

“It took them some time to better understand the scale,” recalls Pohio. “These were national consulting firms but not on this scale before or [with] the inter-connectedness of the various activities.”

Since then, Waikato people and the upper North Island freight and logistics sector have regularly been told Ruakura, equidistant between the ports of Tauranga and Auckland, is coming.

But it’s only relatively recently, when earthworks started and mega-sized buildings for some big-name tenants began taking shape, that Ruakura really pinged on the general public’s radar. Cue Joblin’s reference to “showing people”.

The pace within the 92ha...

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