Wairoa bids for Rocket Lab plant

By Victoria White

2 comments
Blacks Beach on Mahia Peninsula. Photo / Alan Gibson
Blacks Beach on Mahia Peninsula. Photo / Alan Gibson

Wairoa District Council is "aggressively" pursuing a bid for the district to be the base of a manufacturing facility for United States-based company Rocket Lab.

The company hopes to complete construction of New Zealand's first commercial rocket launch site on Mahia Peninsula this month, with a target to complete infrastructure and commissioning in late April.

A Rocket Lab spokeswoman said the company was currently evaluating multiple sites for the manufacture and maintenance of their vehicles in New Zealand, but at this stage no long-term commitment had been made.

"Locals will benefit from the increased activity at site regardless of the manufacturing location and there are many local spin-off opportunities, particularly for tourism and education," she said.

While it was early days, Wairoa council chief executive Fergus Power said the council was aggressively pursuing a bid for the plant, which would provide a number of jobs for the area.

Mr Power said he thought the council would be in a good position with Rocket Lab, given their prior dealings concerning the launch site. When they were in discussions with the company about the construction of the launch site, Mr Power said the council had processed the required consent in seven days.

"We've proven we can move at the speed of light, we can probably move faster than any other entity in the country."

At a meeting with Rocket Lab chief executive Peter Beck on Thursday, Napier MP Stuart Nash had "put Wairoa's case forward".

Whichever area was getting jobs from the launch site was "fantastic from an economic perspective".

Mr Nash said locating the production facility at Wairoa was a natural choice, partly because of the proximity to the Mahia Peninsula site.

"I think he [Mr Beck] has already done wonders for it. I think for Wairoa to have won the launch site in the first place, it's a testament to the district."

While it wasn't as important as the creation of jobs, if the facility was to be located there Mr Nash said he thought it would mean a "complete rebranding for Wairoa".

"It completes the rebranding from 1980s gang-town to 21st-century innovation hub ... it shows that a provincial New Zealand town could foot it with the big guys."

Some of those needed for the plant were "at the top of their game globally", and they would be living and working in Wairoa, he said.

Gisborne Mayor Meng Foon said he was not aware of any bid made by his council for the manufacturing facility.

He said he congratulated Wairoa District Council for consenting and establishing the Rocket Lab pad at Onenui Station.

"Gisborne has had the benefit of this as Rocket Lab staff and clients are using the Gisborne airport," he said.

"Should Rocket Lab approach Gisborne District Council for support we will sure consider their request seriously."

The company spokeswoman said the company had engaged a large number of local contractors for roading, electrical, building, plumbing, network connections and other services.

Currently on the build of the launch site, based on dollar value, 62.42 per cent of expenditure had been in Wairoa, 18.12 per cent in Gisborne and 19.64 per cent elsewhere in New Zealand.

She said: "We're looking to continue using local resources where feasible."

The first test flight is scheduled for mid-2016.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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