Ports of Auckland, Napier Port and cold storage specialist Icepak have formed a joint venture to develop a new $20 million inland port and freight hub at Longburn, near Palmerston North.

The port will occupy the old Longburn freezing works owned by Icepak, and the venture will see the 9ha site transformed into a intermodal logistics and manufacturing hub, the companies said.

The site is being cleared and work will start soon on a dock to complement the existing Icepak cold store on site.

A container yard and container wash facility - to prepare containers to an export-ready standard - will also be built, forming the first stage of the development.

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The site is connected to the main trunk line and the parties are currently in talks with KiwiRail to finalise services.

"This places the port gate on the doorstep of the region's importers and exporters, creating opportunity for both and driving cost out of the supply chain," said Ports of Auckland chief executive Tony Gibson.

As it stands, imports come south from Auckland but not much goes back. Gibson said the new facility would allow exporters to access spare capacity and to lower freight costs.

Napier Port chief executive Garth Cowie said the development was a natural extension of Napier Port's central New Zealand coverage.

Icepak is a family-owned storage and logistics business aimed at primary producers and manufacturers specialising in dairy, horticulture, pet food, edible meats, fish, pharmaceuticals, retail storage and distribution.

The move follows an announcement from Ports of Auckland rival NZX-listed Port of Tauranga last month of a freight deal with Fonterra and the Silver Fern Farms-led logistics company Kotahi, which resulted in it winning a slot in Maersk's Southern Star service from Ports of Auckland.