Tainui Group Holdings' (TGH) bid to build a $3 billion commercial hub in the Waikato has been given a boost.
An independent board of inquiry has decided that TGH's push for a private plan change to kick off its Ruakura commercial hub should be processed by the Hamilton City Council.
This means the council must now prepare the plan change.
The Environmental Protection Agency, to which TGH had applied for a board decision process, will publicly notify the change and call for public submissions.
A board of inquiry will then hold a hearing.The process could take up to nine months.
TGH, the commercial development arm of Waikato-Tainui, and Chedworth Properties, which would build the residential part of the proposed project, applied to the authority in June after becoming concerned the manufacturing hub and inland port plan would get bogged down for years in city council red tape around the new district plan.
A plan change would enable the two companies to develop predominantly rural land owned by them at Ruakura, southeast of Hamilton and three kilometres from the city centre.
TGH owns 299 hectares and CPL 78ha. Just over 2ha is in other ownership and road reserve and railway designations are 9.3ha.TGH announced the proposal five years ago.
It includes a 107ha industrial park, a 16ha ''knowledge'' area including a 4ha suburban centre, 43ha of medium-density housing, and 50ha of open space, five years ago.
It had hoped to begin work on the 30-50 year development proposal in the next two years.
The authority noted that its decision this week to accept the plan-change request, did not mean it had determined the merits of the plan.
Its decision meant the request must proceed to public notifications, submissions and a hearing to allow the merits to be considered in full accordance with the Resource Management Act.
The authority said the total area of land proposed for future urban development at Ruakura comprised about 822ha.