Sleepyhead's $1.2 billion mixed development at Ohinewai in the Waikato has got the green light after an eight-month resource consent process for rezoning.
The master plan for an industrial, residential and commercial development on 178 hectares requires rezoning from rural in the proposed Waikato District Plan.
The proposed development is headed by Comfort Group, Australasia's biggest bedding and foam maker that manufactures the Sleepyhead brand and other products, and its property arm Ambury Properties.
The development is to include industrial, commercial, and residential zones. It intends on developing a master-planned mixed-use community over the next 10 years with 1100 homes for up to 3000 residents, and a new factory creating up to 2600 new jobs.
The decision on the company's rezoning submission on the Proposed Waikato District Plan has been under deliberation since hearings in September last year, when submitters presented their case to independent commissioners Dr Phil Mitchell, Paul Cooney, Dynes Fulton and Weo Maag.
The decision is open to appeal for 30 working days.
Director of The Comfort Group, Craig Turner, acknowledged the significance of the rezoning decision for both the project and the entire Waikato region.
"The decision today marks a major milestone for the project. The vision behind The Sleepyhead Estate is to create a genuine community in a beautiful setting for people who want an affordable, quality home, a stable job and a thriving community they can be part of.
"We want to create a legacy that will continue to add long term value not only to The Comfort Group but to the part of Waikato District, including Huntly, that we have chosen to make the new corporate home for The Comfort Group after nine decades in Auckland.
"The Ohinewai site presents a unique opportunity to bring an existing, proven, and thriving industry to the district, along with the immediate and future associated job opportunities that will drive the economic development of a region strategically situated in The Golden Triangle between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga."
Over the past 20 months, the project team led by Craig and Graeme Turner has been working through the consultation, rezoning and consenting processes required to begin work on site.
"With a development of this size and scale, it takes considerable time to step through the regulatory process that is required and this, in turn, will be reflected in the project timelines," said Craig Turner.
"The Comfort Group very much appreciates the detailed and thorough work of the Hearing Panel, and for enabling the complex decisions in relation to the Ohinewai rezoning to be considered in advance of the rest of the district plan.
"I would also like to thank the Waikato community and local organisations who have taken an interest in the project; your support and involvement has been crucial to progress to this stage and will continue to be crucial to the future success of The Sleepyhead Estate.
"We are working in close collaboration with iwi and mana whenua of Ohinewai through the Tangata Whenua Governance Group, to ensure that their environmental, cultural and spiritual values are appropriately recognised and provided for, and the development is beneficial to all parties," concluded Mr Turner.
Waikato district mayor Allan Sanson said: "This will mean a major boost for the communities of Ohinewai and Huntly, as well as for the whole Waikato district. It will bring jobs, revitalise the northern Waikato with affordable new housing, and encourage other commercial investment in the area.
"It's a tremendous stimulus for the Council's vision to create liveable, thriving and connected communities as New Zealand continues to navigate COVID-19 and uncertain economic times ahead."
The Council's general manager community growth Clive Morgan said development at Ohinewai would help achieve the Council's 'Waikato 2070' growth and economic development strategy and would deliver a substantial increase in housing and jobs in the district.
Meanwhile, earthworks have already started on a part of the development under separate resource consents. Alongside this, an application to build a large foam factory and rail siding are to be considered under the Government's Covid-19 fast-tracking consenting law.
If the zoning decision is confirmed after the appeals period, Ambury Properties will still have to apply for a number of land use and subdivision consents to carry out the planned development, some of which are being progressed under the fast-track process.