Global port giant joins Tainui Group Holdings' Ruakura inland rail port

Construction is underway for the Ruakura inland port project, with 22 truck and trailers cycling through the site daily, shifting 22,000 cubic metres of topsoil.

New Zealand's largest wharf logistics operator has partnered with Tainui Group Holdings for Hamilton's Ruakura inland port project.

Global logistics giant, Linx Cargo Care Group, has committed to a joint venture in the rail port, aiming to unload the first train in the first half of 2019.

The 31 hectare inland port is just a stretch of rocky gravel now, but it's the first step in a $3 billion, 50-year development with the prospect of creating 12,000 jobs.

Linx Cargo Care Group chief executive Anthony Jones said an inland port was a necessity as increasing demand for infrastructure clashed with urban encroachment at current ports.

"If you look at Europe, they went to this model 20 years ago."

Linx has committed to a 50/50, 30-year joint venture with
Tainui Groups Holding (TGH), investing $50 million in the first
stage of the project.

The company already shifts 11 million tonnes of cargo across
Australia and C3, the company's New Zealand subsidiary,
handles 16 million tonnes of bulk cargo through 13 of New
Zealand's wharfs.

Linx made $772 million profit in the year to June 2016,
and is part of Canadian-based Brookfield Asset Management's $250 billion portfolio, which includes 36 port operations across the world.

Jones said New Zealand ports, specifically Auckland, were already stretched in capacity. 

"It impacts on how many times we can cycle a truck a day. It's three hours out of a day you're not driving, so that all becomes costly in the supply chain.

"Why not go somewhere where you can get serviced in 15 minutes and be out the gate?"

Rail, electricity transmission lines and the future Waikato Expressway all run alongside the port, feeding a planned 330 hectare logistics and industrial development.

Agreements with importers and exporters interested in the logistics area are likely to be announced in coming months.

The joint venture has Waikato Tainui retain sole ownership of the land. TGH own the assets and rail on the site and expects to employ tribe members. 

Jones said Linx was comfortable with such arrangements, and was committed to employing Waikato Tainui workers.

"In all [New Zealand] ports we are operating with we have around 47 per cent of our staff who relate back to a Maori tribe," he said.

Linx has set a modest goal of 40,000 containers shifted in the third year of operation, he said.

"The challenge will be, as volume grows, the commitment to the investment in rail. Really what it gets down to is a flip from heavy investment in roads, to an investment in rail."

Chief executive of Tainui Group Holdings, Chris Joblin,said they had considered seven companies in a year-long global search for a partner in the project.

TGH is a "serial partner" across its portfolio, which includes The Base, hotels and other commercial properties.

Linx Cargo Care Group had the skills, capability, and shared TGH's vision for the project, he said.

"We look to partner with people not only on a skills basis, but those softer things are really important to us as well."

A 60 hectare residential zone is also planned for the 608 hectare block of Ruakura land returned to Waikato Tainui in a 1995 treaty settlement.

"We've been working on 'how do we realise that asset', not only in the economic sense but some of the social aspects," Joblin said.

TGH has ambitious sustainability goals for the Ruakura development, with a 16 hectare wetland, 50 hectares of green space and solar power being discussed.