These are exciting times for Northland, and none more exciting than the proposal to move Auckland's port to Whangārei - a move that will provide the catalyst for the region to develop our economy and secure a sustainable legacy for generations to come.
We've seen any number of important projects come to fruition in the North in recent times, with the Provincial Growth Fund pouring much-needed investment into the region for the benefit and welfare of our communities but, at Northland Inc, we believe the relocation of the port is the ultimate game-changer.
• United: We want the port, say Northland's elected leaders
• The Advocate: The North must join together in the fight to win Auckland's port
• Editorial: Ports of Auckland move should proceed - with caution
• Ports of Auckland has to move, says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
The Upper North Island Supply Chain Strategy's working group report, released in August, clearly identifies Northport as the logical location, while pinpointing it as the one location that will provide a positive return within the next 30 years. Even 62 per cent of Aucklanders supported its move in a recent survey.
With the arrival of the port comes an abundance of opportunities to grow our economy and create employment in an area that, importantly, offers affordable housing. The area provides potential to expand, to accommodate freight and logistics activities and the space to develop commercial and industrial facilities, thus further stimulating the economy.
The Government is also considering the development of a floating dry dock. Such a facility could provide valuable support to our marine industry and create, again, a harvest of employment opportunities for all.
This, in turn, will generate a ripple effect that will be felt across the length and breadth of our region, and not just in Whangārei. It will encourage further investment in our businesses, improve connectivity for families, and provide our horticulture and agriculture industries throughout Northland with more cost-effective access to export opportunities.
Northland is an area with great export potential, and locating the port in Whangārei presents a wonderful opportunity to grow our export industry. It will also provide an opportunity to reduce congestion in Auckland, while returning valuable land for development – in other words, a win-win scenario.
These developments, of course, will require improvement in our road and rail network, opening up Northland for further economic expansion in the process. Improving our road and rail network would result naturally in a safer, more robust supply chain, with the benefits also resonating nationally.
Let us embrace this opportunity but, crucially, let us also do it in a way that balances economic gain with environmental preservation; at all times, our people should always be at the forefront of our planning. In that way we can create a legacy that provides prosperity for all of Northland – one that leaves a sustainable legacy for our children. Exciting times indeed.
The team at Northland Inc will continue to beat this drum, as we have always done, and work hard to support these opportunities for all we're worth. It is our time. We dare not miss the boat.
• Murray Reade is chief executive of Northland Inc, the regional economic development agency.