Plans for an industrial park near Kaikohe making use of cheap energy from a new geothermal power plant have been boosted by $890,000 from the Government's Provincial Growth Fund.
The proposal is being developed by Far North District Council-owned company Far North Holdings (FNH) on what is currently a dairy farm at Ngāwhā, across State Highway 12 from where Top Energy is building a new power plant.
FNH hopes to lure businesses to the site, in an area where jobs are desperately needed, with the prospect of cheap land and power. Chief executive Andy Nock has previously said the power discount could be as much as 30-40 per cent with no lines charges.
The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) grant will pay for work needed to set up the ''innovation and enterprise park'' such as developing a business case, a site assessment, a private plan change and resource consents, and starting discussions with potential tenants and partners.
The announcement was to have been made at Ngāwhā last Friday by Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters.
However, the event was cancelled after flight problems left the pair stranded in Nelson. Instead Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis announced a series of PGF grants totalling $4.8 million on his own.
Nock said staff from Far North Holdings, Northland Inc, the Ministry for Primary Industries, and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment were working on the first stage of the industrial park project, which was due to be completed by mid-2019.
The group had already identified opportunities in the honey processing, botanical oil extraction, bio-fuel energy and horticulture sectors. Early interest from businesses had been encouraging, he said.
The site was 90 minutes from the country's only natural deep-water port, less than 30 minutes from Bay of Islands Airport, and surrounded by productive agricultural land.
The working group was already working with local hapū Ngāti Rangi and had started discussions with Te Rūnanga-Ā-Iwi O Ngāpuhi.
Far North Mayor John Carter said one of the benefits of the project was its potential to bring significant numbers of jobs and training opportunities to a part of the country that desperately needed them, while Northland Inc chief executive David Wilson said the funding would help unlock much-needed economic growth in the Mid North.
The land was bought in early 2018 by the Far North District Council with a $5m loan. Income from the farm is intended to cover interest costs.
Top Energy already operates a 25MW geothermal power station at Ngāwhā. When the new station opens in 2021 output will more than double to 53MW.
If a third power plant is built as planned, output will reach 81MW by 2025, making the Far North a net energy exporter.
Other PGF announcements last Friday included $1.3m towards a hotel and entertainment precinct in Whangārei, $750,000 towards the Whangārei rolling ball clock, $1.75m to revamp Te Waiariki hot springs at Ngāwhā and $178,000 towards a multi-use community hub in Kaikohe.
The announcements mean Northland projects have so far been given $104.4m from the Provincial Growth Fund.