Izone business park beats expectations

GLENN CONWAY
Last updated 08:39 03/02/2014
Izone business park
STACY SQUIRES/Fairfax NZ

RAPID GROWTH: Selwyn's Izone Southern Business Hub

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It has quietly kept under the radar but a parcel of land in the heart of Selwyn has become the preferred new home for many industries.

The Izone Southern Business Hub, wholly owned by the Selwyn District Council, has more than 40 companies already based on its 180 hectare site and more want a piece.

Eyebrows were raised when the Port of Tauranga announced recently it wanted 15 hectares there to build a $20m inland port to steer exports and imports towards its half-owned Timaru port.

Previously, most Cantabrians associated a port company with the Lyttelton operation. The sale, ratified by the council earlier this week, also put Izone Park under the spotlight - unfamiliar territory for a quiet solid district achiever.

Its concept was simple back at the start 14 years ago. The council asked residents what they wanted in their district. The verdict: more job opportunities so residential development could grow, therefore less need for the daily commute to Christchurch.

The project is not so much about money as it is about creating a place for jobs and a solid reason for workers to consider living in the area. As land is developed and sold, the proceeds are used to work on the next piece.

The council bought the site and immediately started developing in a staged fashion, opening up land as demand dictated.

Izone chief executive Robin Hughes was on the founding volunteer committee that oversaw the park's first few years of operation. When it became clearer demand for competitively priced industrial land was rising, he was appointed to handle the day-to-day operations.

The council initially bought 100 hectares in a "big vision" move and later acquired another 70ha. Hughes said the development "really kicked off" when The Warehouse chose to base its South Island distribution centre - one of the largest buildings on the mainland - at Izone.

"It was a bit of a cornerstone client that made the decision to come here after it was demonstrated the location would work."

Hughes said Izone was a "greenfield project, not the usual brownfield type of industrial land on a re-developed site."

Starting from scratch meant the council planned wide access roads, roading systems that worked, while adding planting and landscaping to give it an "environment that's actually pleasant for businesses to establish here."

Links to transport and close proximity to Christchurch have also been selling points but the biggest drawcard has been the "very competitive" prices for land.

Hughes said prices depended on how much land was being bought, but it averaged between $110-$150 per square metre, about $100 cheaper than the square metre cost of some other Canterbury industrial parks.

Hughes said Selwyn had become a popular choice for industries with more land being sold in the district than in Christchurch city.

Selwyn Mayor Kelvin Coe, who has been involved in the project from its inception, said a district survey 15 years ago found people wanted more work opportunities to reduce the daily commute to Christchurch.

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From there, a team was assembled to drive the project, buy land, and encourage businesses to come to Selwyn.

"It is fair to say it has has exceeded expectations."

The Canterbury earthquakes had created fresh demand for the area. Land sales were flat just before the first earthquake in 2010 but the availability of cheap, quality industrial land appealed to many businesses who needed to either relocate or establish locally as part of the rebuild.

"Companies were looking for an alternative and there was one sitting there," Coe said.

Izone increased the council's rating base and, created more local jobs.

He likened Izone to being one part of a "three-legged saw" that was crucial for Selwyn.

"People need work opportunities, good residential development and good recreational facilities. This [Izone] is one of those three legs."

BY THE NUMBERS:

180: The number of hectares occupied by the Izone Southern Business Hub

40-plus: The number of businesses operating on the site

500: Number of staff employed at the site

8: The number of hectares under conditional sale or solid enquiry from buyers

10: The number of minutes drive to Christchurch International Airport

40-60: How much cheaper, in percentage terms, land at Izone is compared to other similar industrial parks

- The Press

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