Serious concerns for the future of Tauranga's economy and jobs have been raised as land at a booming industrial estate starts to run out.
In a presentation to Tauranga City Council (TCC) on Tuesday, Tauriko Business Estate director Bryce Donne told elected members and staff the development was approaching Stage 4 of its construction, in which most of the land blocks had sold out.
Once completed, the estate would provide 294ha of land.
However, much of this Stage 4 land could only be unlocked by establishing the infrastructure needed to support the development. Specifically, the creation of a roading connection with Redwood Lane was crucial, he said.
"TCC has been working with, trying to work with, NZTA to achieve co-funding. Getting the road over there and the connection with Redwood Lane is probably the number one focus for us at the moment, the number one thing, we need.
"There's essentially no more land we can release before that connection is in place."
Donne told the council it would likely be another three years before land became available for building in Stage 4. And the estate already had 15ha worth of land on a waiting list for eager buyers.
"There is nothing at all available other than repurchasing from people who have already acquired."
Donne said the estate was frequently approached by some of the larger logistic companies, particularly those who dealt a lot with the port. He mentioned he had even been approached that morning with an inquiry.
"Demand has been increasing from larger national and international businesses," he said.
But he was concerned this business could go elsewhere.
Donne warned the council that if there was no more land to cater for such demand, beyond Stage 4, the regional economy would suffer. He referred to the proposed Rangiuru Business Park but doubted it would be built and completed in time.
"If there's not something else for those guys to work on after this, it will have serious consequences for employment and people will start leaving town, which may help the housing crisis but it's not the answer we are looking for."
Councillor John Robson asked where was next for future industrial land in Tauranga.
Donne said anywhere you went you ran into lifestyle blocks, kiwifruit orchards or unsuitable areas such as wetlands.
"There are some places to do it but ... some are not considered politically attractive ... you could go up Belk Rd ... Ōmanawa or look at not accommodating it within Tauranga. It may end up in Waharoa."
Donne expressed frustration at having to follow and wait for Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency's business case for the Tauriko Network Plan, saying it had been "hard work" in recent years. However, it was necessary to receive the agency's funding for the project.
Councillor Steve Morris asked about the proposed plans for Tauriko West.
The area is earmarked for the creation of a new roundabout on SH29 connecting to the estate and Redwood Lane. It is expected to directly enable further growth of the estate and enable the existing SH29 and Belk Rd intersection to be closed.
"What's the hold up there?" Morris said.
Council manager of city and infrastructure planning Andrew Mead said work on Redwood Lane plans had progressed.
There were some wider investigations "that have slowed that project down but now we are back on track with NZTA".
Mead said the council and the transport agency were working towards public engagement on this in February or March.
In response to concerns about land space, Mead told the council it would need to look at options despite there being "no obvious answer" and "consider the fact that we will not be able to accommodate the land sufficiently in the city in that 10-year plus timeframe".
After the meeting, transport agency senior manager of system design Robyn Elston acknowledged delays to finalising the business case for the Tauriko Network Connections project (also known as the Tauriko Network Plan).
"While we carefully try to manage expectations, there are often a number of factors, often complex, relating to delays in developing and delivering on business cases."
Elston said the agency expected a shortlist of three options, expected to be consulted on early next year, would focus on long-term improvements to SH29 from Omanawa Rd to the Takitimu Drive Toll Rd roundabout, and SH29A to Barkes Corner.
The options were expected to encourage public transport, walking and cycling, the wider transport network and key local road connections.
"This stage of consultation will inform the preferred option for the long-term plan for the area, and the current timeline is to have the business case finalised by early-2022."
In addition to this, a package of enabling works aimed at supporting the housing and industrial development in the area was being investigated and includes the proposal for the Redwood Lane roundabout.
"Preliminary design and cost estimates for this intersection, including stormwater management and how it integrates with the long-term options, are underway," Elston said.
Construction of the enabling works was expected to begin in the next two to three years, subject to conversations with property owners who may be affected, and funding.
Final project costs and funding agreements between the transport agency, council and other parties remain being working through "as part of this process", Elston said.