Far North Holdings has had commitment from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) for a second round of funding in support of the proposed innovation and enterprise park the Far North District Council-owned company aims to develop near Kaikohe. The PGF has committed $19.5 million to fund site preparation, roads and drainage.

The PGF’s latest round of funding for the Ngawha Innovation and Enterprise Park will be released in two tranches. The first tranche of $1.5 million will enable Far North Holdings to complete detailed engineering design, planning and the tender process. This will confirm, to the satisfaction of Far North Holdings and the government, the actual cost of the development and the commercial viability of the first stage of the park.

If the project is deemed viable the government will release the balance of the funding announced today ($18 million) and the earthworks, roading and infrastructure construction work will start in September. This PGF-funded work will involve about 150 workers.

Construction of buildings and other facilities could involve a further 400 construction workers.

Far North Holdings’ chief executive Andy Nock said there was significant interest in Stage One of the park’s development from a range of potential occupants involved in food manufacturing, bioenergy, covered horticulture, research and development, and trades training that could see the production of low-cost community and social housing.

Between them these organisations had the potential to invest up to $70.8 million in establishing their businesses at the park. Far North Holdings hoped Stage One would attract more research and development to the district, create about 250 new long-term jobs, and equip about 50 people a year with high-value, transferrable skills.

Mr Nock said considerable effort had already gone into securing interest in the park from organisations that were either expanding or new to the district, that would offer new jobs to local unemployed people, and whose activities would complement the ‘closed loop’ aspiration of the development. This involves tenants using the innovations and unwanted by-products of other businesses on the site, to avoid additional demand on already-stretched community services such as potable water, raw water, waste-water treatment and waste management services.

“Today’s announcement by the government is a massive leap forward for the project,” Mr Nock said. “We are deeply grateful to it for the confidence it has demonstrated in what we are trying to achieve here for the economic and social wellbeing of our district.”

He said it was important for people to understand that all involved with this project still had a lot of work to do to secure the critical mass of commercial occupants to make the Ngawha Innovation and Enterprise Park  project viable.

“The park needs to be future-proofed to provide something unique to attract the interest of businesses to a region where we do not have the ecosystem or infrastructure to support business growth,” said Mr Nock.

“We are doing this by providing a physical location for research and development agencies and on-site, bespoke training, and by taking an environmentally responsible approach to this development through our closed loop aspirations. These are central attractions for the businesses interested in locating in Stage One.”

A large team comprising staff from Far North Holdings, Northland Inc, government agencies, iwi, sector specialists, engineers, architects and planning and economic development experts has developed the business case for the park. It has also built a masterplan designed to provide the ‘closed loop’ system over several stages of development.

An innovation and education centre will provide office accommodation for iwi and businesses, and space for research and development providers who will collaborate with primary sector organisations, park occupants and local businesses to add value to their production.

The centre will also contain state-of-the-art communication technology, conference and education facilities so providers can deliver on-site and on-the-job education and training. This will ensure that locals can be trained to fill the positions available, and employers at the innovation and enterprise park can access the skilled workforce they need.