By Don Good
There are times you do not look a gift horse in the mouth to check its age and value.
The Turner family’s Ohinewai development project should be the first of many attracted to the Waikato. It will provide employment to 1500 or more people. Some will relocate from Auckland, but many will be employed locally by Comfort Group, the owners of Sleepyhead.
Moreover, it will provide a substantial number of projects for local subcontractors and their staff to bid for and complete.
Another 1100 homes in a tasteful greenfields development is just what our Waikato economy needs right now. A 100,000 square metre factory, which will take a lot of work and workers to create, is a perfect tonic to aid our recovery from Covid-19.
With MSD having over 30,000 looking for work on their books in the Waikato this is a great opportunity to make a permanent reduction in that number, bring some purpose, opportunity and wage packets to our people.
Huntly has long been affected in its development by the river, the railway, Taupiri mountain, the constant traffic and the coalmines, turning it into one of the longest ribbon developments in the country and reducing its ability to flourish. By revitalising Ohinewai, some 7km to the north, you get into more open land that can be developed, which would give both Huntly and Ohinewai a chance to grow, attract more businesses and people. You could use the old, bypassed state highway as a quick commute from Huntly to Ohinewai, thus avoiding getting on and off the expressway.
That Ohinewai SH1 interchange is the most underutilised grade separation intersection in the country. Some smart traffic planners, when designing the expressway, looked into the future and on a traffic plan somewhere in the archives must have realised it would be the perfect place for Huntly to grow into.
This is a chance to revitalise an area and give business an opportunity to relocate or set up there to build a vibrant community.
Here is the link to the Sleepyhead
proposal www.sleepyheadestate.co.nz so you can get an idea of the scope of their venture.
The Waikato is the natural logistics centre of the North Island, sitting smack in the centre of the Golden Triangle. Other major Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and even overseas firms will see this development and if they are restricted by issues in their towns, will start factoring a shift to the Waikato as a possible future option.
It is great to see the major three Waikato councils busy with significant developments. Waipā has the fabulous APL glass factory development at Hautapu and multiple residential developments on the north and south western sides of Cambridge; Hamilton has the mighty Peacocke development, the inland port at Ruakura, multiple builds close to the CBD as well as the Waikato eastern expressway bypass and its attendant roading connectivity getting closer to conclusion; and Waikato District Council is looking to make this Ohinewai venture a reality.
This project is good for the country. It offers employment opportunities for many affected by the Covid-19 downturn. With the use of the interchange it leverages an asset created long ago by the Government for its citizens. It builds hundreds of homes at a time when we really need them. In a small way it reduces Auckland congestion. It revitalises both Ohinewai and Huntly. It substantially boosts the Waikato district’s economy with little or no downside.