The application to rezone 178 hectares of rural land owned by The Comfort Group at Ohinewai in North Waikato has today been approved by a Hearing Panel appointed by the Waikato District Council.
The Comfort Group is Australasia’s largest bedding and foam manufacturer, and includes the Sleepyhead, SleepMaker and Dunlop Foams brands.
Last year, Ambury Properties, the property-owning arm of The Comfort Group, made a submission on the proposed Waikato District plan to rezone the site to accommodate the development of The Sleepyhead Estate.
The Sleepyhead Estate is a unique, master-planned development at Ohinewai which comprises a $1.2 billion, 178-hectare manufacturing hub and residential community that would create up to 2,600 jobs in the area and provide up to 1,100 new homes, over the next ten years.
The Comfort Group’s current manufacturing facilities at Avondale and Otahuhu are operating beyond capacity, suffer from significant site and transport restrictions, and are generally no longer fit for purpose. The Comfort Group will consolidate and expand its operations at the new Ohinewai site, which is adjacent to both SH1 and the North Island Main Trunk Railway. The company will also develop a residential community as part of the development to provide housing for the company’s staff, their families, and other residents. There will be more residential land than is needed to cater for Sleepyhead’s needs. Other industrial, warehouse, or logistics operators who choose to establish in Ohinewai may also wish to take up some of the residential land.
The project will be a boost for the region, ultimately attracting an estimated $1 billion expenditure into the local district through investment in infrastructure, construction, and development.
Director of The Comfort Group, Craig Turner, acknowledged the significance of the rezoning decision for both the project and the entire Waikato region.
“The decision today marks a major milestone for the project. The vision behind The Sleepyhead Estate is to create a genuine community in a beautiful setting for people who want an affordable, quality home, a stable job and a thriving community they can be part of.
“We want to create a legacy that will continue to add long term value not only to The Comfort Group but to the part of Waikato District, including Huntly, that we have chosen to make the new corporate home for The Comfort Group after nine decades in Auckland.
“The Ohinewai site presents a unique opportunity to bring an existing, proven, and thriving industry to the district, along with the immediate and future associated job opportunities that will drive the economic development of a region strategically situated in The Golden Triangle between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga.”
Over the past 20 months, the project team led by Craig and Graeme Turner has been working through the consultation, rezoning and consenting processes required to begin work on site.
“With a development of this size and scale, it takes considerable time to step through the regulatory process that is required and this, in turn, will be reflected in the project timelines,” said Craig Turner.
“The Comfort Group very much appreciates the detailed and thorough work of the Hearing Panel, and for enabling the complex decisions in relation to the Ohinewai rezoning to be considered in advance of the rest of the district plan.
“I would also like to thank the Waikato community and local organisations who have taken an interest in the project; your support and involvement has been crucial to progress to this stage and will continue to be crucial to the future success of The Sleepyhead Estate.
“We are working in close collaboration with iwi and mana whenua of Ohinewai through the Tangata Whenua Governance Group, to ensure that their environmental, cultural and spiritual values are appropriately recognised and provided for, and the development is beneficial to all parties,” concluded Mr Turner.
The project has recently received resource consents from the Waikato Regional Council and Waikato District Council for earthworks to prepare the site for the first stage of development (the foam manufacturing facility). These works have begun and will take around five months to complete.
The Minister for the Environment has agreed that resource consent applications to authorise the foam factory and rail siding can be processed under the Government’s Covid-19 fast-track consent process. That process is in train.
Construction is planned to commence on the factory in early 2023, with occupation mid-2024. The timeline is dependent on earthworks and the compaction of the ground.