Plan to build food hub hinges on usage

By Lawrence Gullery

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A plan to build a food processing and distribution hub may hinge on whether there's enough evidence to show demand and why it should be built over prime horticultural land on the outskirts of Hastings city.

Those are the two headline issues the Hastings District Council hearings committee is likely to consider today as it goes behind closed doors to make its decision on a private plan change request by Elwood Road Holdings.

The company, headed by Trevor Taylor, requested the status of its 16ha block at Tomoana to be changed from plains to industrial so it can build a food hub next to its neighbour, Heinz-Wattie's.

The council's senior environmental planner Rowan Little said his recommendation to the committee remained the same as in his opening report, to decline the request.

He said Mr Taylor's legal counsel, Alison McEwan, had not presented any material during the three-day hearing showing there was immediate demand for the food hub.

Mr Little said there was land at Whakatu already available for industrial expansion and there was a clear message from the community that the growing soils of the Heretaunga Plains, including those at the proposed Tomoana hub site, should be protected.

"I am of the opinion that only those firms that supply a large part of their goods and services to Heinz-Wattie's are likely to achieve significant productivity gains and benefits from locating in close proximity to Heinz-Wattie's, again this is only likely to apply to a small number of firms."

The Tomoana site was near the council's trade waste sewer which could be used for wet industries such as food processing centres. But Mr Little said none of the activities outlined by Mr Taylor would use the service.

Hawke's Bay Chamber of Commerce presented last week suggesting the proposed Ruataniwha water storage project would generate more agricultural activity supporting the need for a food hub.

But the committee heard the water project was not a fait accompli and if it was approved, much of the land irrigated from the project may be converted to dairy.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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