$50m boost for Hawke's Bay

By DOUG LAING


The development of an innovative "food hub" expected to cost up to $50 million and ultimately provide hundreds of jobs is set to begin on the outskirts of Hastings next year.

The "vision" of Elwood Road Holdings and director Trevor Taylor appeared yesterday after the release of a decision from a Hastings District Council planning hearing at which the development met opposition based on loss of more of the rich horticultural lands of the Heretaunga Plains.

But Mr Taylor says that by providing shared-services with as many as 20 businesses involved, it will help avoid duplicating under-used facilities otherwise spread across the plains.

The plan included research facilities, warehousing and other aspects which firms might have or plan individually, knowing they would otherwise only be used for a certain time.

"We think it's of value to Hawke's Bay generally, and obviously to the food industry," he said.

"It will help others to consolidate and grow their businesses, we want others to add value to their food chains, and we also think it will provide employment to keep people in Hawke's Bay."

In a display of sensitivity towards the issues, the decision, supported by Chamber of Commerce CEO Murray Douglas and described by him as "very courageous," gives a half-now, half-later direction - 8ha to be developed and proven before the other 8ha can go ahead.

It's not just for the smaller businesses, with Heinz Wattie's expected to be a significant participant as the hub develops over the next 10 years.

The decision allows rezoning of land to enable the Tomoana development to take place, and is appealable, but Mr Douglas hopes it can now take shape "because food is what we do well in Hawke's Bay and, more importantly, we have to add value".

Hearings committee chairman Mick Lester said it would cater for the expansion of Heinz Wattie's as one of the region's major employers, as well as supporting other businesses.

"It will also provide an opportunity to develop the infrastructure that will allow businesses to add value to the horticulture and agriculture produce which comes from the Heretaunga Plains," he said.

The committee believed it was "a pragmatic approach" to ensure scope for the development of the Tomoana industrial area with lasting economic benefits and jobs to the region, for which economic prosperity remained dependent on agriculture and horticulture.

Mr Douglas said Ellwood Holdings would have a "real interest" in making it work for itself and tenants in the cluster.

Mr Taylor is unable yet to name likely participants, but says the decision enables negotiations towards agreements.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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