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The multipurpose Northport is now moving containers and has ample scope for further expansion

Swathe of greenfield land awaits development at Marsden Point – By Dave MacIntyre

While vacant land close to ports is a rarity at the majority of New Zealand’s sea gateways, a vast swathe of greenfield land is available for lease next to the country’s newest port – Northport at Marsden Point in Northland.

Northport was developed as a multipurpose port in 2002, next to the oil refinery at the head of the Whangarei Harbour, but is breaking into the container market.

Marsden Maritime Holdings (MMH) – 50% owner of Northport along with the Port of Tauranga – has developed a land bank of 185 ha which is seen as perfect for the creation of a freight village or industrial hinterland which would benefit from a port gateway.

Of this 185 ha, some 25 ha are zoned Business 2, suitable for light industrial uses, with the balance being Business 4 and port zone which are suitable for heavy industrial use. Off-road access is provided direct to the port, meaning overweight and out-of-gauge loads can be delivered direct to the ship’s side without requiring special permits to use public roads.

Leveraging synergies

MMH wants to leverage the synergies possible between a port gateway and its adjacent land holdings by entering into long-term lease arrangements with companies operating in manufacturing, construction, warehousing, import/export, processing or logistics. Lease periods of up to 35 years are available and site areas are flexible, depending on individual requirements. 

MMH business development manager Vibeke Wright says the land holding is a strategic asset which the company intends to develop largely in conjunction with the port. “We have no intention of selling land – much of it is immediately behind Northport so it makes sense to manage the asset as a whole, and to a large extent in a manner that supports the development of the port,” she says.

“We have developed a vision of which industries might best be positioned across our land holdings. Given the importance of Marsden Point and Northport to the Northland economy, we need to organise land use in a manner that allows tenancies of different types to co-exist.”

Ms Wright says the port-zoned land is best suited for industry generally requiring a footprint of 5 ha or less, and/or proximity to Northport. “Examples of land use for this zone include bulk cargo storage/warehousing, log processing, heavy machinery depots, port-related heavy industries, and container packing/devanning,” she notes.
MMH’s land holdings around Northport – the current port is in blue, the yellow shaded area is the port zone and is consented for heavy industrial use, and the red shaded area is zoned for light industrial and business use

“The business-zoned land is for enterprises generally requiring a footprint larger than 5 ha. We think it is best suited to industries such as container distribution centres, vehicle storage, processing and distribution, and large commercial/industrial operations,” she adds.

“It is not essential for tenants to have a need to use the port, but we obviously have an interest in ensuring that the land closest to the port is consistent with port operations. If tenancies on our land have a relationship with the port, then it’s a win-win-win for everyone.”

Non-industrial uses

MMH is also encouraging non-industrial uses to develop the area as a whole. It owns the Marsden Cove Marina and has recently started operating a boat haulout and hardstand facility there. It is actively promoting that area to marine services providers. The marina includes a commercial centre of shops and food outlets, which is fully tenanted at present.

“For the land along the existing Marsden Bay Drive and planned roading developments within the business zone, we see this as attractive to commercial and light industrial enterprises, offices and big-box retail. The area closest to the vessel hardstand and Marsden Cove is obviously geared towards marine services and accommodation,” says Ms Wright.

“Having said that, we’re also flexible, so we work with a new/prospective tenant to evaluate their needs and expectations, and come up with practical solutions.”

Nearby residential developments are also in full swing, with premier waterway/canal living at Marsden Cove and more affordable options at nearby Ruakaka (with more planned for Marsden City). These housing options are thought to be a key reason why Auckland-based businesses are contemplating a move north – particularly small-to-medium enterprises with a ‘family’ ethic, whose owners are concerned that their staff can’t afford housing in Auckland.

Attractions

Ms Wright says the Marsden Point land has several advantages which will appeal to industrial and commercial operators. 

“Our land is relatively affordable, compared to similar industrial sites in more urban areas. Lease costs depend on proximity to the port’s gate and use of its services, duration, lot size – all of which are very flexible – and improvements, with prices ranging between $8 and $12 per square metre for land only,” she notes.

“MMH can provide improvements, such as sealing and buildings, so the tenant will get the premises they want, provided the improvements aren’t so unique as to be impractical for different tenants in the future. The improvements are then reflected in the lease cost. Supporting infrastructure is already in place, such as water, power, drainage, ultra-fast broadband etc,” she adds.

“We have a natural deepwater port at our doorstep, connecting Marsden Point to coastal shipping and international trade routes. As well as direct off-road heavy-duty access to ship-side, we have additional roading planned for our other land holdings. We’re well located between Whangarei (30 minutes’ drive) and Auckland (the Northern Motorway is just under 100 km away) via the state highway network on routes 1 and 15. And there’s no traffic congestion – none!”

Rail access to Marsden Point is not there yet, but a corridor is designated for it, and the government has undertaken to review the project.

Market awareness

Companies which have already set up at Marsden Point include Air Liquide, BOC, and Carter Holt Harvey, and supporting industries include metal recycling, engineering (both manufacturing and civil), marine services, log processing, and polymer extrusion. 

In terms of workforce availability, Whangarei City is home to 
55,000 people, approximately 33% of the population of Northland

.

MMH is now increasing its efforts to make the market aware of the development potential of the Marsden Point land holdings. It recently took a stand at EMEX, New Zealand’s biennial trade show for engineering and manufacturing, and has active relationships with Export NZ, the Northland Chamber of Commerce and Northland Inc, as well as participating in the Ruakaka Economic Development Group.

“It’s really a case of keeping our eyes open to the market and introducing ourselves to businesses that might consider the option of relocating, or co-locating, their operations to Marsden Point,” says Ms Wright. “We are fielding a much higher level of enquiry than this time last year.”

Dave MacIntyre is an award-winning journalist who specialises in transport issues within New Zealand; he can be contacted at d.macintyre@xtra.co.nz


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