Planning work has started on-site for the construction of the Marton rail hub, proposed to be built off Makirikiri Rd.
The development of the rail hub was announced in 2020 in a partnership between Rangitīkei District Council, Te Rūnanga O Ngā Wairiki Ngāti Apa, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Provincial Development Unit and Rangitīkei Forestry Holdings.
Once complete, it will be a key logistical hub for the lower North Island forestry industry. More than 80 jobs will be created during the construction phase and 22 full-time positions when operational.
In December the council awarded a planning consultancy tender to WSP, which will enable the project to progress towards comprehensive development planning.
Planning work and assessments on-site, off Makirikiri Rd outside Marton, started this month.
A governance board for the project was appointed in December.
Rangitīkei mayor Andy Watson said the appointments marked a key milestone in the rail project.
"The rail hub will significantly benefit our community, economy and iwi.
"It's great to see progress being made as we get into the new year.
"As we look at 2021 and the process of recovering from the impacts of Covid-19, we are motivated to continue pushing forward to turn this opportunity into reality."
Te Rūnanga o Ngā Wairiki Ngāti Apa chairman Pahia Turia said creating new jobs in the midst of a global pandemic was "really exciting for the rohe and our whānau, hapū and iwi".
"We are looking forward to the growth and development within our rohe, it will see significant development and opportunities within the Rangitīkei district.
"Our Paiaka Matua, our values, guide everything that we do. One of our Paiaka Matua is kotahitanga - unity. Working with others to achieve positive outcomes for everyone. We value relationships and partnerships, and are absolutely committed to ensuring sustainable and positive outcomes for whānau, hapū, iwi and our community."
In August, a $9.1 million investment managed by the Provincial Development Unit was announced through the Infrastructure Industry Reference Group, as part of the Government's $3 billion Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund.
The council has committed $225,000 to a district plan change process which, if confirmed, will allow the industrial build to take place on former farmland, and a further $525,000 to create roading and rail access.
Rangitīkei Forestry Holdings will contribute $500,000 to the project, as well as building and commissioning a debarker facility at the site.
Watson said the council was committed to ensuring the Marton rail hub project was beneficial to the community and was currently working to address the concerns raised in an appeal to the district plan change.
A comprehensive development plan, which will determine the next steps for the project, is due to be completed by April.