Auckland's North may not have the heat or size of Silicon Valley, but Massey University vice chancellor Steve Maharey says it has the potential of the California tech hub - and he is determined to prove it.

Last year, Massey University and Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed) launched the Grow North initiative aimed at building a smart, innovative business and living area.

The first stage has involved a consultation process with businesses, schools, local and central government as well as other groups to see what areas need to be developed.

According to Maharey, that found the basic infrastructure is there, and within as little as five years, the area could grow significantly.


"I think it could be a New Zealand version of a Silicon Valley," Maharey said. "An area or large district that's full of great schools, smart people, smart businesses and people who want to be part of that kind of high tech environment.

"It has all the components there, it's really about trying to bring them together so that people fully understand what's needed to work with each other to get the best from being located in the North of Auckland."

Ateed chief executive Brett O'Riley said the initiative was part of the wider Auckland Innovation Plan to develop the city, adding that this would only work if all regions were actively working towards it.

"If we're going to achieve this goal it is vital that innovation is being encouraged across the Auckland region," O'Riley said.

"Auckland's long-term success is dependent on our being a magnet for smart thinkers who want to start innovation-driven businesses here."

Massey University has played a significant role in the initial phase, spending more than $130 million to double the student capacity of its Albany campus and provide more onsite accommodation.

The bulk of the $130 million project has been the construction of a science and innovation research centre, which would be one of the largest in New Zealand once finished.

The complex would be based around engineering, maths, technology and the sciences, and linked to businesses in the area.

Maharey said it could provide up to 25,000 places, including full-time, part-time and overseas students.

With issues such as traffic and house prices causing headaches for Auckland's population, he said a hub in the city's north would benefit everyone, with one of the goals to have people working locally rather than commuting elsewhere.

"There's a very disconnected Auckland North because people have just got on and done things, so there's all these great things happening but they're not all joined up," Maharey said. "In five or ten years if it turned into connected dots there would just be real lift-off. You'd start to get businesses feeling like they've got a platform to move to, you'll have kids wanting to stay and work in the North because this is where the potential is for them to start a business or work with great businesses and it's really all about taking it to that next level."

Massey University and Ateed have released an initial Grow North report summarising its early investigation into where Auckland North was at and what people in the area wanted. Maharey said the next phase would involve taking the plan back to people in the area before starting work.