A tiny rural Waikato town wants to establish itself as the "North Island's premier food technology hub".
The Hauraki District Council has sold land to Chinese buyers to set up an icecream factory in Kerepehi and wants to partner with food-based companies to establish "Hauraki Park", which has 16 sites up for sale.
Hauraki District Mayor John Tregidga led an economic development delegation to China and Taiwan this year to promote the Kerepehi food technology hub and seek investors.
He said he had met a major Chinese investor, a Fortune 500 company with infrastructure interests.
Talks with the company, which he would not name, were ongoing but early indications were "promising".
"This is about a substantial investment company looking at New Zealand for development and investment, not necessarily in land but in manufacturing," Mr Tregidga said.
The hub is opposite the former Kerepehi dairy factory that Chinese-owned Allied Faxi Food Company bought this year to convert into an icecream-manufacturing plant.
The plant should be fully operational by the end of next year and is expected to produce 10 tonnes of icecream and 10 tonnes of frozen cream daily, all for export to China.
Mayor Tregidga said local investors had also shown interest, and NZ Trade and Enterprise was also supporting the council's plan to attract investors and food businesses interested in exporting food.
He said the council had approved a resource consent application and design for a plant to process waste water from food-processing businesses and had spent $9 million upgrading Kerepehi's water treatment plant to accommodate existing farms and industrial growth.
Bayleys Waikato commercial salesman Josh Smith said expected rates of between $52 and $80 a square metre for the 16 sites in Hauraki Park were considerably lower than in Auckland or Hamilton.
He said there had already been some buyer interest in the sites, which range in size from 2200sq m to 1.2ha.
The sites had direct state highway access to two ports - Tauranga and Auckland - and were surrounded by the land that would be supplying much of the dairy product required by the dairy factory.
• 17.4 kilometres from Paeroa
• 429 Population at the 2013 Census
• $21,400 Average annual income
• 12% of the population are aged 65 and over
Figures: 2013 Census