The first tenants of an innovative new business park employing an estimated 150 people near Kaikohe will include a berryfruit venture and an avocado oil plant built by a world-leading Northland firm.
Ngāwhā Innovation and Enterprise Park is being developed by council-owned company Far North Holdings (FNH) on a former dairy farm off State Highway 12.
While the Provincial Growth Fund pledged $19.5 million last year for park infrastructure, whether it could go ahead or not hinged on FNH locking in enough tenants to make it viable.
On Tuesday, during a visit by new Economic Development Minister Stuart Nash, the company announced it had now secured the five cornerstone tenants it needed.
On top of the government cash — which will pay for roads, earthworks, drainage and water storage — the five stage-one tenants will invest $40m, creating about 150 new jobs and providing about 100 people a year with valuable skills.
The five tenants include a new joint venture called Kaikohe Berryfruit, Kerikeri-based Olivado and house-building firm Modular Construction.
FNH chief executive Andy Nock said the company and local hapū Ngāti Rangi had spent more than two years working with economic development agency Northland Inc, government agencies, iwi, economic development specialists, engineers and planners to develop a business case for the park.
The aim was to create a ''closed loop'' manufacturing system in which one business' waste products are another's raw materials.
Olivado's biogas facility, for example, would turn waste from horticulture and food manufacturing into biomethane, a gas which can be used instead of LPG, and fertiliser.
The park was also designed to collect and reuse as much water as possible. Its water supply would be supplemented by the Matawii Dam to be built nearby by Te Tai Tokerau Water Trust.
Nock said the park needed something unique to attract businesses to a region where FNH and Ngāti Rangi were trying to build a business ecosystem from scratch.
"We're doing this by providing a physical location for research and development agencies and on-site bespoke training, and by taking an environmentally responsible approach through our closed loop aspirations.''
Northland Inc would staff a planned innovation and education centre while a skills and employment co-ordinator, initially funded by the Ministry of Social Development, would match the skills needs of tenants with job-seekers and arrange on-site training. Local people would be trained to fill the positions available.
Liliana Clarke, a spokeswoman for Ngāti Rangi, said the hapū had been involved in the development of the park since its inception and had significant input at all levels.
■ Kaikohe Berryfruit is a joint venture led by Ngāpuhi Asset Holding Company, partnering with Northland grower Maungatapere Berries and FNH. It will develop a hydroponics operation on a 28ha site, starting with 10ha of tunnel houses for raspberries and blackberries. Packing and cool-store facilities will be built on site. The venture is expected to provide work for 120-160 people, of which 60-70 would be fulltime.
Ngāpuhi Asset Holding Company chief executive Paul Knight said it would be one of New Zealand's biggest soft berryfruit growing operations, pumping $34m a year into the local economy. It would also provide well-paid jobs within easy reach of Mid North people, he said.
■ Kerikeri-based Olivado will build an expanded avocado oil production plant to service Northland's avocado boom and supply its 34 international markets. Waste will be turned into fertiliser and biomethane to run the plant and supply local industrial and domestic LPG users, a world-leading circular economy innovation Olivado first developed at its plant in Kenya.
■ Modular Construction plans to build thousands of modular houses at the park and work with education providers to provide training for local people.
The other two tenants have yet to be announced.