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Published: 2013-05-17 00:00:00

Auckland’s traffic congestion has an impact on Waikato business costs and efficiencies, Waikato Regional Council’s policy committee has heard.

“Pretty good progress can be made along the northern Waikato stretch of State Highway 1, until you get caught in congestion on Auckland’s motorway – the same road we depend on for freight movements, getting marketable goods to ports and essential supplies into the Waikato and beyond,” said policy committee chair Paula Southgate. 

“The economic wellbeing of our region is so reliant on efficient road and rail transport links and effective land use and this is a key reason why ongoing discussions with Auckland Council are essential. 

“Land use development in Auckland, particularly to the south, could have significant impacts on the efficiency of the route that not only serves the Waikato but is a key transport corridor in the North Island,” Cr Southgate said. 

About 25 per cent of New Zealand’s freight tonnage travels through the Waikato, so improving freight efficiency will help reduce the cost of goods for all New Zealanders while increasing the competitive advantage of our country’s importers and exporters. 

To help inform decisions on strategic investment in freight-related land use and infrastructure and boost economic growth, Waikato Regional Council partnered with nine other organisations through the Upper North Island Strategic Alliance (UNISA) to complete an upper North Island ‘Freight Story’. 

The project identified seven critical issues that impact on the cost of doing business across the upper North Island which include addressing key road and rail infrastructure constraints.

Since completing the project, UNISA has continued to push for a better understanding of supply and demand factors related to industrial land use across the upper North Island, the policy committee heard on Tuesday (14 May). This includes working with the private sector to better understand what attracts and/or places barriers on industry to develop. 

The region is also well-positioned to become home to freight-related developments, the committee heard. Waikato has about half the upper North Island’s available industrial land and much of this is serviced and ready to go. 

Mainfreight’s $30 million investment in a new site north of Hamilton is a good illustration of the Waikato’s growing importance to the upper North Island freight system, the committee was told. It will have road and rail access and be similar in size to the company’s freight facility in south Auckland. 

An additional piece of council-commissioned research on the functions and future development of freight precincts and inland ports has been completed by Aurecon to help inform the council’s position on future land use and infrastructure needs. 

The committee heard that to maximise the chance of success, any inland port facility should be located relative to primary markets, major road and rail infrastructure, and be buffered from residential areas. The report also identified ancillary services are required for the success of inland ports, and additional efficiencies can be gained by co-locating warehousing, storage and light industry on site.