Whanganui's manufacturing sector is growing - with new manufacturing-zoned land for sale and existing buildings purchased with guaranteed returns from long term leases.
"I'm always optimistic that things are about to take off, and the interest that we are seeing points to that," Whanganui & Partners business strategic lead Tim Easton said.
Another 10ha of industrial land in the Mill Rd Manufacturing Zone went to market about a year ago, and 12 of its 24 lots had been sold, real estate agent Russell Duggan said. Two others were under negotiation.
"It won't leave a lot," Duggan said.
Most of the buyers already operated in Whanganui and wanted room to expand - but Duggan said he was also working with a big national business that may move in.
The sales follow a similar amount of the manufacturing land in Mill Rd that is serviced by infrastructure and now in use by about 20 businesses, or being developed. One of the additions will be an office/warehouse for Newtech, a bathroom design company.
The Whanganui District Council set aside 120ha of land near Castlecliff in the 1980s and zoned it manufacturing. Most of that is privately owned and Mill Rd was put in to service it in 1996.
Wight Aluminium built its 8000sq m factory and started manufacturing in January 2020. That building has now been sold, with a guarantee that Wight will lease it back until 2031, with renewal possible until 2043. Living Waters Medical did the same thing with its building in Rakau Rd.
"It's what the big boys do in the main centres. It's another indication that we are moving in that direction," Easton said.
The newest 10ha prepared for sale has roads, footpaths, lighting and services like power, water, gas and broadband right to the boundaries of the 24 lots available. It's owned by Allan Davis and Julian Anderson, and called Westbourne Industrial Estate.
Twelve lots were spoken for and Duggan expected a scramble for those that remained - though he said Covid had made businesses more cautious.
Due to privacy, Duggan could not name the interested companies but he and Easton said there were a broad range. None could be "wet industries" like freezing works, but they included freight, light engineering, logistics, design and build and warehousing.
The development was attractive because Whanganui was already strong in manufacturing, and because of the lower costs here.
Big businesses like the Imlay meatworks, Open Country Dairy and Tasman Tanning formed Whanganui's industrial base, Easton said. Then there were niche industries like Q-West Boat Building, Pacific Helmets, GDM and paint manufacturer Fleet Australasia.
Manufacturing employs more people in the district than any other sector of the economy - 29.7 per cent of the workforce in 2021. That's a higher percentage than Auckland and Hamilton and almost equal with Tauranga.
Manufacturing also accounts for more GDP than any other sector in the district - $244.8 million or 12.2 per cent. The next biggest earner, agribusiness, brought in $149.7 million - 7.5 per cent of GDP.
Whanganui & Partners prepared a fact sheet based on 2020 figures and outlining the advantages of being here. One was that the infrastructure and services for manufacturing were already in place.
Whanganui's inland port means goods can be cleared by customs here before leaving for ports at Auckland, New Plymouth, Tauranga, Napier and Wellington. Proximity to the developing Whanganui Port is another advantage - there's not much land available there and the Mill Rd Industrial Area is only 1km away.
Industrial land is also cheaper here. In 2020 a square metre cost $450 to $650 in Auckland, but $120-$170 in Whanganui. Council rates on that land are lower too - $5 to $8 per square metre on industrial land in Auckland and $2.62 in Whanganui.
Wages and houses - either bought or rented - are also cheaper here.