Council sole owner of Waikato Innovation Park

GROWTH HUB: Waikato Innovation Park, the ag-biotech business growth hub, is home to more than 50 businesses.
GROWTH HUB: Waikato Innovation Park, the ag-biotech business growth hub, is home to more than 50 businesses.

The dissolution of Waikato economic development group Katolyst Trust means Hamilton City Council has become the sole shareholder of Waikato Innovation Park.

The Katolyst Trust was set up in 2006, to promote economic growth within the region, and to help with the governance and development of Waikato Innovation Park.

The park is New Zealand's hub for ag-biotech business growth.

It is sited on 17 hectares of land beside the Ruakura Research Centre. It is the only science park in New Zealand, funded by the council and the Government's former major regional initiative scheme.

Officially opened in 2004, the park is home to more than 50 businesses and 420 staff.

It has brought $16 million of establishment funding into Waikato over the past 10 years and contributed more than $100m to the regional economy.

Katolyst owns 100 per cent of shares in company Innovation Waikato, which owns 80.2 per cent of the shares in the park, worth around $8.8m.

Hamilton City Council owns the remainder, a 19.8 per cent stake, with an approximate value of $2.2m.

Innovation Waikato has also formed three subsidiaries; Beef Solutionz, Dairy Solutionz and New Zealand Food Innovation Waikato, which owns and operates the park's $11m dryer.

Katolyst's trustees resolved to pass on the trust's assets and dissolve earlier this year after questioning whether the trust was fulfilling its purpose as an economic development promoter, as its role had become share ownership.

Mayor Julie Hardaker and city councillor Marijke Westphal are Katolyst trustees along with Wel Networks chief executive Julian Elder, Waikato University management school head Frank Scrimgeour and Waikato businessman Michael Spaans.

The trustees proposed to pass Katolyst's assets over to the council, provided all income from the transfer, and any future sales proceeds, be used for charitable purposes to benefit the community.

The council's finance and monitoring committee voted yesterday to accept Katolyst's offer after a period of public consultation, in which two submissions were received.

One was from the Waikato Chamber of Commerce, supporting the park and Innovation Waikato becoming council- controlled organisations, but questioning the use of funds. "There is a risk with a 100 per cent HCC shareholding that it will remain ‘Hamilton-centric'," chief executive Sandra Perry said.

"Why not evolve a more contemporary entity with mixed industry, commercial and regional [Territorial Local Authority] stake holdings?"

The chamber also questioned the indemnifying of past Katolyst trustees and no obligations for the park's $19m in liabilities.

The other submitter, Steve Tritt, had issues with what would happen with the equity held by Innovation Waikato. He said the money had been contributed by the Government and regional and industry partners to advance regional economic development.

"[It] should not be used by the council for a miscellaneous range of charitable purposes."

The decision is to be ratified by the council at its next meeting on August 15.