James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Tainui alters course on port

Group applies for private plan change in bid to fast-track first stage of inland harbour.

Mike Pohio says the inland port project should be classified as one of national significance. Photo / Christine Cornege
Mike Pohio says the inland port project should be classified as one of national significance. Photo / Christine Cornege

A frustrated Tainui Group Holdings has applied for a private plan change with the Environmental Protection Authority to help fast-track the first stage of its multibillion-dollar inland port.

The commercial arm of Waikato Tainui and developer Chedworth Properties, which plans to build a community of medium-density housing neighbouring the proposed inland port and commercial hub, said the decision to lodge their application was made partly out of frustration and delays to their project at Ruakura, about 3km east of Hamilton's CBD.

The project must be classified as one of national significance for a private plan change to be accepted for review by the EPA.

TGH chief executive Mike Pohio said the EPA would make a recommendation to the Minister for the Environment whether it should be referred to a board of inquiry.

He said much of the land for the project at Ruakura would remain subject to restrictive provisions stopping it from going ahead until the Hamilton City Council's Proposed District Plan came into force - a process that took 13 years previously.

"We've looked carefully at the possible timeframes. If we do not achieve success with the EPA, we would not be able to apply for resource consents for years in a worst-case scenario," he said. "Under the EPA's board of inquiry process, we could possibly apply for resource consents mid-2014."

Mr Pohio said there was no doubt the inland port was a project of national significance with its unique location: equidistant from the ports of Tauranga and Auckland, on the main trunk railway line and to be bordered by the Waikato Expressway.

The port could handle an expected growth in freight and would create about 11,000 jobs, while injecting more than $4 billion into the Waikato region's gross domestic product.

The area covered by the private plan change is about 380ha - substantially less than the more than 800ha included in the Ruakura structure plan, which is part of Hamilton City Council's Proposed District Plan.

A Hamilton City Council spokeswoman said council had not received a copy of the application so was unable to comment.

She said TGH were within their rights to ask for the Minister of the Environment to take over the process, as had been the case with Transpower's upgrade of pylons across the central North Island.

The inland port has attracted the ire of a group of Silverdale residents, who say the project will create problems with artificial light, noise and heavy traffic flows from trucks and container cranes operating 24 hours a day, and increased stormwater flows into local gullies and streams.

- NZ Herald

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