Glasshouse horticulture, graphite production, timber drying, house construction, honey, native leaf teas and manuka oil extraction are among the industries which have so far shown interest in a proposed industrial park near Kaikohe.

Council-owned company Far North Holdings (FNH) is developing plans for Ngāwhā Innovation and Enterprise Park on what is currently a dairy farm near Ngāwhā Springs, and says it could create more than 500 jobs.

The park's location is across State Highway 12 from a geothermal power station being built by Top Energy and due to start producing electricity in mid-2020. Low-cost power direct from the new plant is one of the attractions touted for the industrial park.

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FNH chief executive Andy Nock said a feasibility study and business case for the park, paid for by a $890,000 grant from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF), had been completed and discussions with potential tenants were continuing.

It was estimated stage one of the park could create the equivalent of 333 full-time jobs, with another 200 in the second stage. The company's focus was on attracting businesses that were new to the Far North and creating jobs for locals who were currently unemployed.

A key part of the proposal was an innovation and education centre, which would provide office and laboratory space, state-of-the-art communication technology and facilities for on-site education and training. FNH was applying to the PGF for funding to build the centre.

The Ngāwhā Innovation and Enterprise Park will be built 4km east of Kaikohe, if all goes to plan. Photo / Supplied
The Ngāwhā Innovation and Enterprise Park will be built 4km east of Kaikohe, if all goes to plan. Photo / Supplied

Nock was confident the application would be successful.

''They [the Government] will make a lot more by investing in this than it would cost to keep that many people unemployed. It's a no-brainer and a potential game-changer for Northland. We'd be replacing low-paid seasonal tourism work with product development and manufacturing that just doesn't exist right now in Northland.''

However, no one was breaking out the champagne yet, Nock cautioned.

''There is still significant progress to be made before we can say with any certainty that our vision has a chance of becoming reality.''

Even if the PGF agreed to the full funding it would still take a year, ''with a good wind'', to get the resource consents and tenancies in place so work on the ground could begin.

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Nock said potential tenants had been chosen with the intention of creating a ''closed loop'' system, with businesses using each other's waste and by-products to avoid extra strain on services such as water and waste disposal.

As yet no tenants had signed on the dotted line.

''That said, we are miles further ahead with this project than we were even three months ago ... There are still many months of hard work ahead of us before we will know if we've managed to line up all the inter-connected elements that are needed for the park to proceed.''

Nock said he was grateful for the support or the PGF, iwi, business and the community which, through the Far North District Council, had bought the land for the park.

''If anything's going to be done to improve the economic position of this district, we're going to have to grab it by the scruff of the neck and do it ourselves. No one else will.''

District councillors voted unanimously in April last year to borrow $5 million to buy the land at Ngāwhā. If the venture fails the farm will be re-sold so the council can recoup its money.

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