Ten years after it was first proposed as a way to draw business to Selwyn district, the Izone Southern Business Hub in Rolleston has become the biggest industrial subdivision in New Zealand.
The milestone comes after the $60 million park gained resource consent to incorporate another 49 hectares of former farmland. About 30 submitters opposed the rezoning, mostly on the grounds it would create extra road and rail traffic, increase noise, and spoil the Rolleston landscape.
The decision will bring the size of the development to about 180ha.
Izone has been developed by the Selwyn District Council on land it has been buying up opposite the Rolleston township, and is managed by the people behind Christchurch's Northwood subdivision, RD Hughes Developments.
It began with a giant new distribution centre for The Warehouse, which the council built and then sold to an investor. The council then moved on to develop further stages, while buying ahead more land including the block just rezoned.
The park has 90ha subdivided and will develop the rest to meet market demand. Land uptake to date has been at an average rate of 16ha a year, and it has 25 companies and 430 people onsite.
So why has this project been such a hit?
Working in the park's favour has been the rising cost and scarcity of land in nearby Christchurch's western industrial suburbs.
Also timely has been the growth in agriculture and horticulture in the region, Rolleston's new housing , Selwyn's status as the fastest growing district in New Zealand, and the recent go-ahead for the Central Plains Water scheme which will irrigate much of central Canterbury.
Izone's development manger, Robin Hughes, says several food- processing companies have approached Izone about taking space as a direct result of the Central Plains Water decision.
Hughes says the resource consent decision has cleared a major hurdle, and he believes offering the land for sale instead of just leasing has helped the park grow. As well, its council ownership means businesses know it won't be under- capitalised, he says.
"Rezoning often is a huge barrier, which we now no longer face. Selwyn now has its mandate to develop through as and when needed."
He says while the recession has slowed down the development, it has in some ways helped.
"The changes in the economy and the fact that everyone is cutting costs means they're looking to save on land. We are by far the cheapest in the Christchurch area.
"Our aim wasn't to be the largest. But from the vision the council had, we have exceeded the original timeline and despite the business downturn we're getting steady enquiry."
New occupants include Westland Milk Products, PGG Wrightson Seeds, Austin Pipes, AgriSeeds and an unnamed company. The park also recently opened an information centre, cafe and recruitment website.
While Hughes says the council has no plans to buy more land to make the country's biggest industrial park even bigger, he would not rule out the possibility.
* August 2000: Selwyn District Council plans industrial park at Rolleston.
* April 2001: Council buys 130 hectares of rural land.
* April 2002: Council signs deal with The Warehouse to build a distribution centre on a 7ha site.
* February 2003: Plan change allows for Rolleston's population to grow from 3000 to 14,000.
* June 2003: Warehouse distribution centre opens.
* August 2003: Council buys 18ha of land in Hoskyns Rd to improve road access to park.
* December 2004: approval for another 72ha to be rezoned.
* February 2005: two appeals lodged in Environment Court against zoning but later resolved by agreement.
* June to October 2006: second stage of park subdivision built on 5ha.
* March 2007: new traffic lights put at entrance to park on State Highway 1.
* April 2009: consent to rezone 56ha of land to the east of park.
* 2010: consent to rezone another 49ha, bringing size of subdivision to 180ha.
- © Fairfax NZ News