The first construction phase of Tauranga's $400 million plasterboard facility has begun in the Tauriko Business Estate - this initial phase costing almost $40m.
But with all developable land in the estate sold out, some say another project is now "desperately needed": a new highway connection to unlock land for housing, business and industry.
Winstone Wallboards reached a milestone in January when it was granted its first consent worth just over $39m to start the build of the manufacturing and distribution plant.
The Bay of Plenty Times can reveal some of the first images of the facility, which is expected to create 100 permanent jobs when it opens in 2023.
A Winstone Wallboards spokesperson said the company was seeking consent for the new facility in two stages.
The building substructure and superstructure was part of the first stage.
"Contractors began digging the first piles and foundations onsite at the end of January.
"We expect to receive the second consent, which is for the roofing, cladding, services and equipment, by the end of March."
The spokesperson said the new facility would bring significant economic benefit to the region.
"It will create around 100 new permanent jobs in Tauranga and at peak construction, there will be around 300 people working onsite."
Tauriko Business Estate director Bryce Donne said the atmosphere at the site was "busy" now construction had started for Winstone Wallboards.
"It's exciting seeing them come out of the ground."
Donne said land at the estate was officially sold out.
"There is no more land available for sale."
He said the team was now doing everything it could to facilitate a new State Highway 29 connection to unlock "desperately needed" new land.
"That's the biggest key to unlock any given land ... and it's likely more than three years until any more land becomes available."
But he said a number of investors were still keen to provide a build-and-lease solution for interested tenants.
The industrial and commercial business estate was zoned in 2006 with 182 hectares of industrial land and 18 hectares of commercial land for the Tauranga Crossing mall.
Donne said the original forecast was land would sell out by 2021 but "in the last five years it's been relentless".
"There is still strong demand from people and businesses both local and out of town looking to invest in the region."
Ray White Tauranga business owner and commercial and industrial specialist Philip Hunt said it was "exciting" the land had now all sold out.
"We knew it was coming," he said.
"It is very exciting out here because there's so much development happening or about to happen.
"My understanding is this is Australasia's biggest industrial subdivision and for it to sell out and there's major land still to come is significant."
Hunt said interested parties could snap up some currently-owned land that is up for sale.
"But it is scarce," he said. "A lot of my clients I've sold land to have developments on the drawing board and tenants will be aware of this land shortage and will need to move quickly."
He said the state highway connection was "certainly needed".
Chief executive of the region's economic development organisation Priority One, Nigel Tutt, said Tauranga was an attractive location for Winstone Wallboards.
Tutt said the Port of Tauranga meant the company's main market would be the "golden triangle" - Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga.
"They [Winstone] are a slick operation and have been great to deal with. They are very detail-focused and I've got no doubt they will have this development done quickly."
He agreed the highway connection was "desperately needed".
"We are keen to see the highly successful Tauriko Industrial Estate open up their next stage."
Tutt said the Western Bay was short on industrial, commercial and residential land.
"Demand for this will only get stronger in the future, and without it, local businesses won't be able to grow.
"It's very important we can get access to more land in a timely manner."
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley said it was great news for the region that construction had started.
"Not only will it provide jobs, Winstone Wallboards also forms a critical part of our construction supply chain.
"This is great news for our hungry housing sector to have security of supply of gib for the long term."
A Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency spokeswoman said construction of various connections to support housing and industrial development in Tauriko West and the Tauriko Business Estate was at least two to three years away from starting.
She said the organisation was working with the Tauranga City Council to investigate "a package of initial enabling improvements".
"The enabling works will facilitate access and result in upgrades and improvements at the following locations: Tauriko Village, SH29/Cambridge Road intersection, plus a new connection to Tauriko Business Estate via Whiore Ave [for public transport, cycling and walking only], and SH29/Redwood Lane to the Tauriko Business Estate."
She said construction was expected to start in the next two to three years, subject to funding and conversations with affected landowners.
The council and agency were planning to consult with landowners, stakeholders and the community in April.
Council general manager of regulatory and compliance, Barbara Dempsey, said the council was pleased to be able to work with Winstone Wallboards to get the first stage consented and under way.
"This is a particularly large and exciting building project, and it's great to see our city attracting an increasing number of these."
Major consent applications issued value over $1m
Total consents: 123
Value: Just over $90m
Approved: January 2021
Construct a manufacturing facility - gypsum storage, offices. Building consent for groundwork, fencing, foundations, piles, inground services and steel structure.
12 Rita St
Erect a three-storey, four-bedroom dwelling with attached triple garage, bar and kitchenette, gym, spa pool, swimming pool, reflection ponds and retaining.
2 Te Omiraka Lane
Erect three, two-storey duplex buildings. Each duplex contains two three-bedroom dwellings with an attached single garage.
17 Victoria Rd
Construct eight three-storey townhouses with internal garages
8 Forstera Way
Erect two-level, four-bedroom dwelling with attached double garage, with swimming pool and spa pool.
242 Grenada St
Villas 65-66 (Duplex) - two single-level, two-bedroom dwelling with attached garages Villas 67-68 (Duplex) - two single-level, two-bedroom dwelling with attached garages Villas 69-70 (Duplex) - two single level, two-bedroom dwelling with attached garages
Source: Tauranga City Council