Hawke's Bay 'inland port' development: 46 jobs created in $20m Whakatu project

The New Zealand Herald

Hawke's Bay 'inland port' development: 46 jobs created in $20m Whakatu project

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Part of a large apple orchard will be removed to make way for the port project. Photo / Supplied The Government is set to spend $20 million to build an inland port at Whakatu. It's the first announcement in a planned $130 million spend in Hawke's Bay as part of the Covid Response and Recovery Fund and means councils will be biting their fingernails in the hope their projects are given the green light over the next fortnight. The port project announced on Wednesday by Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones would create an estimated 46.5 jobs over its two-year development, they said. Once up and running, it will provide 28 permanent jobs. It will mean a 12ha portion of a Napier Port-owned apple orchard between T&G Global and Whakatu Cold Stores on Anderson Rd will be removed. The region now has $110m left in the Government kitty, and both Napier and Central Hawke's Bay mayors say they hope Hawke's Bay's Three Waters project will be included in that. In 2018 the five councils in Hawke's Bay joined forces to review the management of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater in the region. The review planned to develop recommendations to improve the management of the three water systems across the region and hoped to inform the Government's "three waters" strategy. CHB Mayor Alex Walker praised the $20m investment in the Whakatu Inland Port project but reiterated the importance of the Three Waters project. "The Whakatu Inland Port project will bring positive outcomes for the economy of Hawke's Bay which will connect beautifully with the primary sector of Central Hawke's Bay," Walker said. "However, investment in three waters infrastructure is, and will continue to be, the number one priority for our region and our communities. "This priority has been made very clear to government and I am disappointed that this has been overlooked by the Government in this first round of announcements." Napier City Council mayor Kirsten Wise said she had some reservations about the inland port plan. "Given this will likely result in a positive increase in freight by rail and ideally a decrease in trucks on all routes to Napier Port, the region will have to review provisions for level crossings across the road network," Wise said. "Upgrades are likely to be required and Hawke's Bay's councils would expect central government funding support for this work. "Investment in Three Waters infrastructure remains the top priority for Hawke's Bay's leaders and communities." Hastings District Council mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said it would bring growth to the region's economy. "This Napier Port project will be significant for our Hastings district enabling the efficient movement of our produce to the port," Hazlehurst said. "The inland port aligns really closely with the construction of our largest roading project, Te Ara Kahikatea, which has been a priority since 2012 to enhance and improve the efficiency of our transport network across the region. "It is important the Whakatu community are part of the early stages of the planning and design of the inland port." WHAT WILL IT LOOK LIKE? The Whakatu Inland Port project will involve the construction of a 12ha offsite port between Napier and Hastings. Ships do not make their way to the site, but freight is sent via direct rail and road connections to Napier Port. A Ministry of Finance spokesman said the development supported the preservation of the productive soils and land in Hawke's Bay. "This will be done through the utilisation of shared infrastructure within our important primary sector. The Whakatu site is situated within an existing industrial zone," he said. The project will provide for the growth of the port, in the face of limited space at the port itself, and relieve the pressure on its facilities from Hawke's Bay's growing primary sector exports, including horticulture and forestry. The Crown support via the Infrastructure Industry Reference Group, for the Whakatu Inland Port, will bring the development forward by five years. Napier Port chief executive Todd Dawson said it would provide efficiencies for exporters with reduced trucking distances and greater flexibility in container storage for both exports and imports. "It will also consolidate operations pivotal to local supply chains in one location and avoid unnecessary and inefficient duplication of facilities." The man says he's got an alibi: 'It would be impossible for me to commit these offences'.