The Sleepyhead company's proposal for a $1.2 billion manufacturing and housing development in north Waikato has had a major breakthrough, securing fast-track resource consents for the first stage foam factory.
The consents have been granted by the Government's expert consenting panel under the Covid-19 fast track consenting process and mark a "significant milestone" for the company and the Waikato region, said developer Craig Turner, director of The Comfort Group which owns the Sleepyhead brand.
"It will allow us to proceed with consolidating our Auckland manufacturing plants into a more efficient, state-of-the-art facility at Ohinewai. In the coming years, all of our manufacturing will be located at this site," he said.
The resource consents cover five buildings and associated infrastructure over a site area of around 38 hectares.
The approval also covers a rail siding that provides for access to the North Island main rail line, enabling easy access to the ports of Tauranga and Auckland.
The Turner family-owned Comfort Group is Australasia's biggest bed making company and a major exporter.
Earthworks costing around $12m to prepare for the foam factory are under way. Resource consents for this work were given by the Waikato District Council and the Waikato Regional Council.
Building consents for the foam factory will be lodged in stages with the Waikato District Council, said the company, with the first being filed late this year. Construction on the first buildings on site is expected to start in April, with the foam factory expected to be operational in early 2023.
The Government's expert consulting panel was set up under the fast-track consenting process established by the Ministry for the Environment as part of the Covid-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Act 2020. The Act provides for a quicker consenting process to fast-track selected projects that can boost employment and economic recovery.
The new fast-tracked resource consents are separate to Waikato District Council's decision in May to rezone the 178ha development site as part of the Proposed Waikato District Plan process.
In July Waka Kotahi, NZ Transport Agency and the Waikato Regional Council lodged appeals in the Environment Court against the Waikato District Council's decision.
The district council is now engaged with all parties, including The Comfort Group, on the appeal process.
Ambury Properties, the property-owning arm of The Comfort Group, lodged applications for consents for the foam factory and an adjacent rail-siding with the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) in May.
As part of the processing of the applications, ECP invited comments from various parties with an interest in the proposal as set out by the Covid-19 legislation, said the company.
That included adjacent landowners and Government departments. Sixteen sets of comments were received, and APL provided additional information to address these matters.
"While this is crucial to the future of The Comfort Group's operations, we also look forward to this development being a catalyst for a wider industrial zone proposed at Ohinewai," said Turner.