The creation of Marsden City, to be developed in Ruakaka as New Zealand's newest city, has been given the go-ahead by local authorities.

"The Environment Court has cleared the way for the development of a mixed-use town centre that, under the Whangarei District Council's structure plan, envisages a population growth of up to 40,000 within the next 20 to 30 years," says Oliver Scott, director of North Holdings Group, which is undertaking the development south of Marsden Pt, in Northland.

Scott says Marsden City's mixed-use consent will include a retail shopping centre, commercial businesses, residential high and medium-density, parklands, residential-compatible industry, and light and general industry.

"The Whangarei District Council's structure plan allows for a city centre to eventually have a core commercial area of around 35ha including 60,000sq m of net floor area for retail and 82,000sq m of net floor area for non-retail commercial uses. Under the plan there can be up to 2200 residential units.


"Initially Stage 1 of the development will offer 22,000 retail, 20,000 non-retail commercial and 250 residential house lots, 150 apartments above retail and commercial buildings and a variety of industrial uses."

Overall, the centre will comprise about 765,000sq m of net land area and the existing Casey Rd will be upgraded as the centre's main street.

North Holdings is offering choices for residential living including detached houses, attached townhouses, and terraced housing and apartments. Most residential living will be located around a large neighbourhood park.

Scott says the vision for Marsden City is for "city space designed for relaxed, community-styled living, built around open recreational space and a vibrant city centre".

New zoning will also allow for retirement living and educational facilities. "Plans have been floated by other land developers in the region for a composite educational facility that could cater for at least 3000 students," he says.

Stage 1 of the development is being marketed by Peter Jennings of NAI/Harcourts, Albany, who expects there will be surging demand for land as the big companies seek "first-mover" advantage.

"The interest for the main street Stage 1 retail shops has already attracted a good mix of retailers," he says. "There has been strong interest from a supermarket chain, a hardware DIY chain, a fast-food franchise and a home zone retail complex. Plans are already under way for a motel and conference centre on Casey Rd, and a group of doctors have chosen to site a private hospital in the development.

"A large global cloud-hosting data centre is in negotiation to purchase a large holding and the potential is for creation of up to 1000 jobs."

Scott says the desire to create a green city reflects the region's best assets of wide-open natural spaces that will promote active lifestyles.

"We are building New Zealand's newest city and that provides us with the perfect opportunity to make it the greenest, and therefore one of the most desirable, places to live in New Zealand."

Scott says the go-ahead from the Environment Court has drawn more interest from large New Zealand-owned businesses which have identified the area as "one of the hot growth regions" in New Zealand.

"We expect there'll be a lot of interest from Christchurch businesspeople who are seeking a fresh start in a developing region."

Council CEO Mark Simpson says the development of Marsden City will deliver a significant boost to the economic growth of the region.

"Marsden Pt, Ruakaka and the Bream Bay area have long been identified as the most significant growth node in the district, and it is excellent to see the way cleared so this major project can progress," Simpson says.

"Over a decade ago, growth forecasts saw council providing for growth in the area - zoning more land for residential, service industry and industrial use.

"The economic climate has caused a bit of a slowdown in recent years, but progress has been steady and greater infrastructure spending is expected in the area in the coming year."

Craig Brown, Northland Regional Council chairman, says Marsden Pt and Ruakaka have been recognised as suitable for full-scale development since the turn of the century.

"In fact, the area was divided up on paper as a hub for a town or city development long ago. With Marsden Pt's deepwater port and an efficient port-operating business, the Marsden Cove Marina, and associated housing developments, the signal was here for some years that this could well be New Zealand's next city.

"With rationalisation of port transport ahead of us, it is common sense that developments of this nature will thrive in this location."

Scott says a $500 million refinery expansion announced by Refining New Zealand will create more than 350 new jobs.

"The potential downstream benefits from the expansion are significant, with some commentators believing this may trigger the long-awaited construction of the designated rail link from the main trunk line to the port and the refinery."