With waterfront property in Whangarei costing five times less than Auckland's soaring price tags, some Super City marine industry players are eyeing the north for cheaper land and skilled workers.

Mark Wightman, managing director of Auckland-based Integrated Marine Group and Shipco 360, which has established a base at Fraser St in Whangarei, said Auckland companies were feeling the squeeze and Whangarei offered them room to grow.

In January 2014 the Auckland-based super yacht refitters took over Shipco Marine Constructors, which closed down in March 2013.

Now called Shipco 360, the Fraser St component of the company has been carrying out refit and repair services for companies like SeaLink, Fullers Northland, Northtugz and other commercial operators.


Mr Wightman told the Advocate it was the quality industry skills in Whangarei that attracted the company's investment.

Shipco 360 is a partnership involving the Spanish-based, ship building, maintenance and repair veterans of Vigo, the Vicalsa Group, and the Auckland-based Integrated Marine Group, which has a strong superyacht focus.

Shipco 360 employed 14 people in Whangarei in commercial work, and up to 30 through sub-contracted work.

Mr Wightman, originally from Okaihau, said his Auckland company was focused more on super yachts. "I don't see Whangarei ever becoming the super yacht capital."

However, he said Northland's industry skill would certainly attract more companies, looking for cheaper, freehold land that allowed for expansion.

"Being a Northland boy, I've always kept my toe in the water there. There's a good level of skill, less traffic congestion, a good work ethic, deep water, easy access to the waterfront ... and lots of history of skill in Whangarei," he said.

"Land is limited in Auckland ... there's no room to expand ... they're quickly constrained," he said. Commercial real estate agent for Harcourts Whangarei, Peter Peeters said most industrial land in Whangarei started at $130 per square metre.

He is selling the Port Nikau industrial subdivision of 18 lots with harbour frontage, including lots on Logyard Rd and Port Rd in Whangarei.

The cost per square metre of waterfront land is $190, industrial lots $150 and industrial land further inland $130.

This compared with Hobsonville's $800-$1000 per square metre price tag or Mt Wellington's $400 per square metre cost for industrial sites in Auckland.

Freehold industrial property in Auckland City goes for $3000 per square metre, while you will pay a whopping $10,000 per square metre for leasehold, waterfront land in the CBD.

Mr Peeters said he had been receiving inquiries on the lots from outside the region.

Murray Wilkinson of Norsand boat yard in Whangarei said he had seen a lift in business and interest from Auckland companies too.

He said the Whangarei industry was doing well and his business had expanded in the last three years. He employs 34 people at the "closed yard" which hauls, repairs and paints boats.

One Whangarei company which was investing in development was Oceania Marine, which has ordered the first of two travelift machines as part of a six-month travel haulout project at the Port Whangarei Marine Centre.

The 100 tonne travelift is believed to be the largest machine in New Zealand, and will be based at the south shipyard from October.

Marketing manager Jim Loynes said Oceania Marine wanted to cater for the increasing number of visiting yachts and sailing catamarans.

A 450 tonne mobile boat hauler was part of the next stage of development and that was expected to be ready for the summer 2016 season.