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Waikato Herald - 2021-07-23

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Sleepyhead should be a strong drawcard for region

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The Waikato is the natural logistics centre of the North Island, in the centre of the Golden Triangle. Other major Kiwi and overseas firms will see the size and scope of the Sleepyhead development, and if they are restricted by issues in their towns, will start factoring a shift to Waikato as a possible future option. It is great to see the major four Waikato councils busy with significant developments. Waipa¯ has the APL glass factory development at Hautapu and multiple residential developments on the north and southwestern sides of Cambridge. Morrinsville in Matamata/ Piako has the Lockerbie estate and an industrial development at the eastern end of town. Hamilton has the Peacocke development, multiple builds such as Union Square and the Regional Theatre close to the CBD. The Waikato eastern Expressway bypass and its attendant roading connectivity are also getting closer to conclusion, while Waikato District Council looks to make the Sleepyhead venture a reality. The Ohinewai development project should be the first of many attracted to the Waikato. It gives employment to 2600 or more people. It builds 1100 homes when housing is a national crisis. Some people will relocate from Auckland, but many will be employed locally. This project is good for the country. It offers employment opportunities for many affected by the Covid-19 downturn. With the use of the Waikato Expressway/ohinewai grade separated interchange, it leverages an asset created long ago by the Government. In a small way it reduces Auckland congestion. It revitalises both Ohinewai and Huntly. It substantially boosts the Waikato economy with little or no downside. It will provide a substantial number of projects, both in its build and ongoing, for local subcontractors and their staff. Huntly has long been constrained in its development being squeezed by the river, the Railway, Taupiri Mountain, and the coalmines, all of which have turned it into one of the longest ribbon developments in the country and reducing its ability to flourish. By revitalising O¯ hinewai, 7km to the north, you get into more open land that can be developed, giving Huntly and O¯ hinewai a chance to grow, while attracting more businesses and people. NZTA could use the disused state highway as a quick commute from Huntly to O¯ hinewai, avoiding traffic getting on and off the expressway. This is a chance to revitalise an area and give businesses an opportunity to relocate and contribute to building a vibrant community. Our regional council and NZTA have proven to be anti-business and are obviously not interested in job creation. Their opposition to the project sends precisely the wrong signal to others who may wish to locate in the Waikato. The council’s 100-plus pages of appeal submission is, in my opinion, an example of political face-saving. The issues should have been negotiated months before. The only winners are the expensive Auckland lawyers. ■ Don Good is executive director of the Waikato Chamber of Commerce.

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