$125m data centre planned for Whangarei

A mock-up of the proposed data centre.

A mock-up of the proposed data centre.

Northland Inc chairman Colin Mitten and a group of local businessmen are hatching an audacious plan to build a $125 million data centre in Marsden near Whangarei.

The proposed data centre would be the first “Tier 4” data centre in Australasia, meaning it should be less prone to outages than even the relatively modern facilities built in New Zealand over the past few years by Datacom and IBM.

Mitten said the facility could benefit from, but was not dependent on, Hawaiki Cable’s plan to build a new trans-Pacific fibre-optic communications cable and land it at Bream Bay, near Whangarei.

He believed the chances of that US$350m (NZ$403m) cable project going ahead were “better than 50:50”. Hawaiki’s chief executive, former Alacatel-Lucent executive Remi Galasso, moved his family to New Zealand a few months ago which Mitten took to be a sign of his commitment.

“We mean to engage with Hawaiki further in terms of, ideally, co-locating the termination of the cable,” Mitten said. However, he said there was no formal partnership between the cable and data centre ventures as yet.

Mitten will resign as the chairman of Far North economic development agency Northland Inc in June to become chief executive of the data centre company, Aotea Clear Cloud Limited (ACCL), he said. The venture is being backed by businessmen including property developer Tony Jelas.

ACCL had finalised its business planning and appointed chartered accountants Crowe Howarth to assist with fundraising, Mitten said.

He envisaged the facility would comprise eight 500 square-metre halls, each capable of hosting about 350 racks of computer equipment. However, ACCL would start by kitting out only two to reduce its start-up costs. The $125m expected budget would be the total for setting up the facility and fitting out all eight halls.

At the moment, there are only a small number of true Tier 4 data centres, in the United States and Europe, and none in Australasia, Mitten said. “It sets a very high benchmark in terms of the security of data.

“We have an unparalleled opportunity to attract some of the world’s biggest companies and create exponential job and economic growth opportunities in the region, and the next few years will be crucial to this endeavour,” he said.

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Mitten would not say how much of their own money ACCL’s existing shareholders were proposing to invest.

 - © Fairfax NZ News


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