There was a lot of work to do yet, and there would be major hurdles to clear, but Far North Holdings' plans for an innovation and enterprise park outside Kaikohe had already attracted "significant interest", chief executive Andy Nock said earlier this week.
He spoke to the Northland Age after the Far North District Council-owned company released its first plan, portraying progress that had been made in discussions with organisations involved in glasshouse horticulture, renewable carbon products, native timber drying, housing trades training and construction, honey, native leaf teas and manuka oil extraction.
Mr Nock said the focus had always been on securing interest from businesses and enterprises that would be new to the district, and that would offer new jobs to local people who were currently unemployed.
FNHL estimated that the park would create as many as 333 fulltime equivalent jobs through the first stage of the development, both on site and via specialised training conducted there.
An Innovation and Education Centre would provide office accommodation for businesses, and laboratory space for research and development providers who would collaborate with primary sector organisations to add value to their production. It would also feature state-of-the-art communication technology, conference and education facilities, so providers could deliver on site and on-the-job education and training.
That, Mr Nock said, would ensure that local people could be trained to fill the positions available, and employers would be able to recruit the skilled workforce they would need.
Potential tenants had been identified, and had said they would establish themselves on the site if other elements of the plan could be made to work.
"No one's breaking out any champagne just yet, and we want to caution against any unjustified optimism, but it's been a wonderful journey so far," he added.
"There is still significant progress to be made before we can say with any certainty that our vision has a chance of becoming reality. But we wanted to show the community where we're at with this project."
A large team comprising staff from Far North Holdings, Northland Inc, the Ministry for Primary Industries, sector specialists, engineers, architects, planning and economic development experts had undertaken the work for this first stage of the proposed project. The business case had been developed and the masterplan designed to provide as much of a 'closed loop' system as possible, with tenants using the innovations and unwanted by-products of other businesses on the site.
That would help avoid placing additional demand on already-stretched community services such as potable water, raw water, wastewater treatment and waste management services.
Resource consent applications for each component would be submitted shortly, while discussions continued with potential occupants, tenants, investors and the Provincial Growth Fund.
The PGF had contributed $890,000 towards the initial feasibility, planning and business case work.
Mr Nock said the group was working "relentlessly" and starting to "notch up a few runs on the board". But he emphasised that no prospective tenants were yet committed or confirmed.
"There are still many months of hard work ahead of us before we will know if we have managed to line up all the inter-connected elements that are needed for the park to proceed."
Far North Holdings had established a website. Search online for 'ngawha innovation' or go to ngawhapark.nz.