The new joint venture will take an initial 50-year ground lease to establish the inland port, and plans to start port operations at Ruakura following the opening of the nearby Hamilton section of the Waikato Expressway, currently scheduled for the end of 2021.
Parekawhia McLean, Chair of Te Whakakitenga o Waikato, the Waikato-Tainui parliament (and parent organisation of Tainui Group Holdings) said the iwi is pleased to team up with New Zealand’s largest international hub port to bring Ruakura Inland Port to life.
“It’s exciting to confirm a concrete path forward for this project of national significance which will unlock economic, social and environmental benefits for New Zealand, our region and our iwi,” Ms McLean said.
Port of Tauranga Chief Executive, Mark Cairns, says there is a strong logic to team up with Tainui Group Holdings to unlock efficiencies for importers and exporters by utilising Ruakura Inland Port.
“This new partnership adds to our strong and growing capacity to serve the Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions. It combines our own expertise in developing and operating ports, the deep regional connections of Tainui Group Holdings and the scale and efficiencies offered by Ruakura and its road and rail connections,” Mr Cairns said.
“By enhancing the MetroPort Auckland to Tauranga rail service with calls at Ruakura, we can unlock significant environmental and economic benefits for freight customers,” he said.
Local communities will also benefit, with TGH modelling showing a potential 60,000 truck movements per year removed from the region’s roads when Ruakura is fully developed.
Chris Joblin, Chief Executive of Tainui Group Holdings, said the shared strategic interest with Port of Tauranga had become increasingly obvious as the market landscape evolved.
“This agreement brings clarity and certainty to the development of Ruakura Inland Port and signals we are open for business. As the largest port in New Zealand, Port of Tauranga will bring world class expertise in developing and running ports,” said Mr Joblin.
“We are excited to enter this partnership based on strongly aligned values and interests. And for our iwi, it means we can make the inland port a reality in a way that retains the underlying whenua, which will never be sold.”
“With 192 hectares earmarked for logistics and industrial uses, we expect a number of other customer conversations in progress to bear fruit in the coming months as distribution and logistics companies and manufacturers seek out a preferential location at Ruakura.”
Port of Tauranga and Tainui Group Holdings have been in talks since initially signing a rail services agreement in mid-August last year to enable Port of Tauranga’s cargo trains running between MetroPort Auckland and Tauranga to service Ruakura Inland Port.
The “golden triangle” of Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga already accounts for around half of all freight volumes in New Zealand and container volumes are forecast to grow 60% in container volumes by 2042.
KiwiRail operates up to 86 trains per week for Port of Tauranga between MetroPort Auckland and Tauranga, carrying up to 9,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units). The route currently has unused capacity and the additional service stop will improve utilisation and reduce the number of trucks on roads.
Ruakura is a visionary logistics hub designed to help importers and exporters unlock the golden triangle. Offering genuine scale, the core of the development is a 30ha inland port which will offer direct access to major seaports via main trunk rail services and the Waikato Expressway. Complementing the inland port is a 192ha logistics and industrial precinct offering room to grow for businesses seeking a substantial footprint, and adjoining precincts for commercial, residential and retail use. Ruakura is long-term project by Tainui Group Holdings (TGH) and its business partners. TGH’s track record includes quality developments at The Base, one of New Zealand’s largest shopping centres, and hotels at Auckland Airport and Hamilton as part of the $950m diversified portfolio it manages on behalf of 76,000 Waikato-Tainui iwi members.