Wednesday, July 31, 2019

New bridge connects a growing community

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Bridging the northern trunk line.

In 2017, works began to connect the Helenslee and Hitchen blocks, between the northern and southern ends of Pokeno Village. Always an essential piece of infrastructure in the original master plan for the development, the bridge crosses the northern railway trunk line, connecting Hitchen Road with Pokeno Road, greatly improving access between the village, state highways and the employment zone, Gateway Business Park.

As part of the ongoing expansion of infrastructure planned throughout Pokeno, the new bridge was completed in early 2019, opening as new stages came to market within the Hitchen Block.

The development has steadily grown from humble beginnings in 2012, to the completion of the Helenslee Block to the north in 2018, and on to the Hitchen, Bartell and Graham Blocks to the south.

As well as the development of Gateway Business Park, Pokeno's employment zone that provides local jobs like the 200+ employed at the Yashili Dairy Plant, there are a number of vital areas of growth planned for this thriving village. The primary school is set to expand and will benefit from new sports grounds next door. Add a newly consented Countdown supermarket and this once forgotten town is fast becoming one of Auckland's most talked about secrets.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Pokeno welcomes it's first supermarket

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Pōkeno has come of age.

Waikato District Council has received an application by Woolworths NZ Limited for resource consent to construct and operate a Countdown supermarket at 58 Great South Road. The site is in the Pōkeno town centre, opposite the town's other food businesses on Great South Road - Pokeno Country Cafe, The Bakehouse Cafe, Pokeno Bacon, Pokeno Superette, Johnson Takeaways and The Original Pokeno Ice Cream and Coffee Shop.

Countdown spokesman Jason Stockill said the company purchased the site in 2012 for future development. "[We] had identified Pōkeno as an up and coming area, and we received resource consent to build a small supermarket," Stockill said. "Following discussions with the local council we've ended up applying for a new resource consent application for a larger Countdown supermarket given the growth in the area. The application is currently going through public consultation."

Pōkeno's nearest large-scale supermarket is Countdown in Pukekohe, 15km away, although there is also a Four Square in Bombay, 9km away, and a SuperValue in Tuakau, 8km away. The burgeoning town has had its struggles over the years. Its main road was bypassed in the early 1990s. But thanks to the Auckland housing market spike, Pōkeno's population is set to triple in coming decades. Once a town of 150 people in the '90s, the town is now booming with around 2000 people calling it home today. That number is set to increase to at least 7000 within the decade. The town's projected eventual growth is 20,000 people. Smack-bang in the middle of Auckland and Hamilton, Pōkeno's abundant rural land provided the ideal place for new homes to be built.

Woolworths' proposal seeks consent for a 3,000sqm supermarket building, 200sqm of at-grade office space and 100sqm for a plant, as well as 146 parking spaces on-site. Earthworks are expected to take approximately three to four months with an initial additional pre-loading stage of six to eight weeks. Construction of the sub grade, the supermarket building and site works to form a new road - Wellington St - could take approximately seven to eight months.

Helen Clotworthy, owner of Pōkeno Bacon, said the new supermarket would be a "fabulous asset". "We acknowledge the competition that it would bring but we have stood the test of time. Our customers love our product, and our service, so we are confident we will retain those customers."

Raj Patel, owner of Pokeno Superette - the town's sole grocery store - said the large supermarket coming to town would be a positive thing. "It's good for the Pōkeno community. The giant has traditionally killed the small businesses, but it may bring more people and [we could always] change the business to something else. It's the time to do it now, but they will take time to build up and start [operating]."

Bunnin Kong, owner of The Original Pokeno Ice Cream and Coffee Shop, famous for its large ice creams, said the proposal was exciting. The ice cream shop is already heaving with customers in the summer months. "It will attract more customers to the shop. There has already been more and more customers [lately] with the growth of housing in Pōkeno."

Awaroa ki Tūākau ward councillor Jacqui Church said she was excited for Pōkeno and the surrounding districts. "Of all the needs and wishes of local residents, a supermarket has been their number one preference. Like all locals, I too am absolutely rapt that we will have such a well-appointed supermarket close by. I'm looking forward to doing my personal shopping here and meeting the locals in the aisles as we shop." Church said it was great to see the supermarket chain commit their resources to Pōkeno. "Their vision and commitment is another endorsement that reinforces, yet again, the vibrancy of [the town]. It is a most welcome addition to our community's wellbeing and the future growth of our north Waikato towns."

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Auckland's urban sprawl gains pace south of the Bombays

By: Hunter Calder
Videojournalist Waikato, NZH Local Focus   
Click here to watch the video


It's a pinch-me-and-wake-me-from-the-dream kind of scenario: Family homes on good-sized sections for $600,000 and businesses lined up to roll in and invest.

Within the reach of Auckland.

Anyone driving over the Bombay Hills will have seen Pokeno undergoing a huge makeover.

It's not so obvious down on Pokeno's main street, where motorists still take a break and lick their way through the famous ice creams.

It's more noticeable at the sole motel, where owner Bruce McRae is expanding his business and setting up a restaurant. Up the hill, houses have sprouted like oversized, beige mushrooms after a spring shower.

"What was dairy farm is now all houses," McRae said. "Who would have believed that it could happen like that? I wouldn't have."

On the other side of the railway line, there is more activity - sites being levelled and cleared, houses under construction, and massive industrial buildings taking shape.

Project manager Colin Botica says take-up was initially slow in the shade of the global financial crisis. Photo / Hunter Calder

It's all happened in just six years but the idea was first floated in 2004, said project manager Colin Botica.

"Three farmers came to us and said they thought it was a good idea for us to develop in Pokeno so we had a look and they were right," Botica said.

"There was a whole lot of work to be done because there was not a lot of infrastructure here, but the basics were here - right on State Highway One and Two and the main trunk line too. Great as far as transportation goes."

With enough land for nearly two thousand sections – a thousand residential lots have been sold already. And Waikato District Council has had 946 resource consents for new dwellings in and around Pokeno in just five years.

With Auckland's increasing house prices, Pokeno was increasingly an option for those looking for affordable housing, but it had other benefits too - most notably the quiet

Longtime Auckland resident Jocosa Bruce has made the transition to Pokena. Photo / Hunter Calder

"I remember the first night. It took two weeks for my ears to settle from the noise, the constant ringing that happens in Auckland," said former Aucklander Jocosa Bruce.

Most new residents agreed.

"Even though it's suburbia, it still feels 'countrified' because it's quiet," said Kay Meale, a recent arrival from the country.

But it may not be staying quiet and peaceful for long.

The nearby industrial park was 96 per cent sold, with businesses including dairy giants Synlait Milk which was investing $250 million on a new milk powder factory, Winston Nutrition moving in alongside existing dairy company Yashili which makes infant formula.

Pokeno is on the main trunkline and within coo-ee of state highways one and two. Photo / Hunter Calder

"We didn't consider the dairy industry coming in in the way they have," said Botica. "So that's fantastic. It creates more jobs than the logistics industry, and jobs for residents who move here."

Pokeno Whisky Company and Hynds also planned to set up and be operating in the next three years.

Bruce made the shift to Pokeno with her family as a way to "get our own space back".

She now worked for a local company, Compass Homes, building in the residential development. She said the people moving in were from all over - Tauranga, Hamilton and, like herself, Auckland.

"The main reason they look here is affordability. People with kids, or about to have kids, they need an extra bedroom and those homes in Auckland are out of their price range.

"You can get a brand new home for under $600,000 here - double glazed, insulated, you can't beat it."

Core Logic says median values in Pokena have levelled off in recent times. Photo / Hunter Calder

Valuations from Nick Goodall at Core Logic put the median property value in Pokeno at $698,600

"From September 2014, the median value in Pokeno grew from $533,100 to $744,600 in March 2017 - a 40 per cent increase," Goodall said.

"Much of this growth can be attributed to population growth in the region and the availability of credit."

Recently that had dropped, which Goodall said could be because of a reduced demand as credit became harder and sales steadied across Auckland.

It reminded Botica of when the project started.

"[It] was a slow start after the huge financial crisis," Botica said. "So we've been surprised at the speed in residential, from those tough times in 2009 and 2010. But we were always confident in the location."

Building up terraced and multi-storied homes, now being developed closer to Auckland wasn't an option for these developers.

Botica said they stuck with the vision to create the "older New Zealand traditional subdivision and keep that connection with the rural [aspect].

"We didn't see the need to intensify like Auckland here."

The population of Pokeno was currently estimated at around 3000 but it could soar to 12,000 by 2045, according to Stats NZ.

But more people, means more pressure on resources.

"Lots of houses, but no amenities like they promised, so [it'd] be good if some shops come along soon," Dean Meale, a new resident said.

There were plans for a supermarket, a bakery and perhaps a gym.

The Waikato District Council has set aside more than $32 million in its long-term plan for projects including a library, roading, upgrades on the wastewater system and power services, general manager of community growth Clive Morgan said.

Some of the key infrastructure projects identified in the long-term plan for Pokeno included:

  • $3m for a library/service centre in the next three years (2019-22)
  • $7m for roading and intersection works in the next three years (2019-22)
  • $18.8m for water reservoirs and reticulation extensions for Tuakau/Pokeno (2021-24)
  • $3.1m for a North Waikato resource recovery centre for Tuakau/Pokeno (2024-26)
  • other works including extensions to the stormwater system this summer, new wastewater rising mains to service the industrial park at Pokeno.

There were also parks, playgrounds and a bridge over the railway line connecting one of the new suburbs to the original Pokeno village.

But there was still at least six years of development ahead and, as with any building development, there was no certainty about the timeline.

Nonetheless, Botica was confident, pointing out how things have "come in threes" throughout this project - from the three farmers who had the idea, the three dairy giants now in town, to three Norfolk Pines on a hill overlooking the new Pokeno.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Hitchen Road bridge to access hundreds more sections

With the completion of the Helenslee residential block, expansion into the Hitchen block began in 2016 with larger lots, some over 1300sqm. Located near Gateway Business Park, the growing employment zone that provides jobs and services for the thriving community, this has been the only route in and out of the Hitchen residential block.

Stage 1 & 2 sections have sold out, with builders offering house & land packages, however stages 3, 4 & 5 all have sections available, plus design & build options. Accessing these new stages is still through Gateway Business Park, however the new bridge, due for completion in December 2018, will make a direct link between the Helenslee and Hitchen blocks.

The rail crossing will connect Pokeno Road with Hitchen Road at the northern end of the village and allow greater access to over 800 sections throughout the Hitchen/Bartell blocks.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Pokeno gets free business advice from local service

North Waikato business people can now access free advice, support and potentially funding to help their enterprise grow.

Waikato District Council, as part of its Open Waikato economic development service, has partnered with Waikato Innovation Park to offer the free business service from Tuakau. The service offers support for start-ups plus advice on business expansion, export market development, research and development funding and product development. The service is already available in the south of the district, based at Ruakura in Hamilton.

Waikato Innovation Park is the lead agency for New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and Callaghan Innovation funding programmes. The Park’s business growth advisors can facilitate business access to the Food Innovation Network which provides services and facilities for food manufacturing businesses developing new products.

Waikato District Mayor Allan Sanson said council’s economic development team (Open Waikato) had worked hard to extend the service into Tuakau and Pokeno.

“Waikato Innovation Park, along with the council, recognise Tuakau and Pokeno as high-growth, high-potential areas and we want to do all we can to foster and support economic growth that benefits our community,” Sanson said.

“North Waikato is full of smart people and budding entrepreneurs and this free service will provide support they might not otherwise have been able to access.”

Waikato Innovation Park business growth advisor Peter Davey said the main criteria for assistance was a desire to grow.

“We’re very interested in helping local businesses that are wanting to grow, facing technical roadblocks, or looking to take on new skills that will enable business growth.”

Business people can access the free service on the second Tuesday morning of every month and meet with a Waikato Innovation Park business advisor at the council office in Tuakau. Appointments can be made by emailing or by calling Open Waikato’s freephone 0800 252 626.

Mayor Sanson also urged North Waikato businesses to take advantage of the existing web-based business service already offered by Waikato District Council. A website, was “jam-packed” with information to help Waikato businesses succeed, he said.

Get the complete story in the video below:

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Yashili's new factory a milestone for the infant formula company

Yashili New Zealand's new infant formula plant is a milestone for the company's globalisation strategy.

The $220 million plant at Pokeno in North Waikato was officially opened with much fanfare on November 6 at a ceremony at the factory attended by government and company representatives from both New Zealand and China.

Yashili New Zealand general manager and director William Zhao said it was "hard to describe" the feeling after Yashili New Zealand had developed from small beginnings into the company it was now.

It was the company's first overseas plant and Zhao said they searched all over New Zealand before choosing Pokeno because of its geography, location and excellent dairy farming facilities.

The 30,000m2 plant will employ 85 staff and have an annual production capacity of about 52,000 tonnes of formula product. It will produce formula under the brand 'Super Alpha-Golden Stage Infant Formula' with shipments to China expected to begin in early 2016.

Yashili New Zealand is a leading producer of infant milk formula for the domestic market in China and has bought milk powder from New Zealand for more than 10 years and had used this country's milk powder in its infant milk formula since 2010. The establishment of Yashili New Zealand begun a new chapter of Chinese offshore infrastructure development, China Mengniu Dairy Co and chairman of Yashili International Holdings Sun Yiping said.

New Zealand was a good choice for the company and Yiping hinted the company may look to build more factories in the future.

"Globalisation is one of our key strategies to help Mengnui transform from a very traditional dairy provider to be a more multinational company. I think New Zealand is a very good start and this plant will give us an opportunity and maybe in the future [we will have] more production facilities not only for infant formula but also UHT milk."

Yiping said the recent removal of China's one child policy was great news for Yashili.

"We will become a brand that knows Chinese mums best," she said.

Yiping said Chinese consumers highly valued New Zealand products, which was why they moved to set up a production facility in this country.

The opening was also the scene for the signing of a new global strategic cooperation agreement between Yashili International and European dairy producers Arla and Danone.

The agreement will see the three companies work closer together in supplying products into Arla and Danone's markets.

"It is a significant agreement between these two great dairy producers who are each committed to the highest standard of food quality and safety," Yashili International Holdings president Lu Mingfang said.

Yashili New Zealand is a subsidiary of Yashili International Holdings Ltd and Mengniu Dairy Co and was founded in 2012. The three companies have a history of collaboration with Danone acquiring 25 per cent of Yashili last year while Arla Foods has a joint venture company with Mengniu Dairy Co called Arla Mengniu.

Mingfang described the agreement as an "eco-system project" where the Pokeno plant can be into its global sourcing strategy.

"Today we have entered into a preliminary agreement with Danone to provide... supply into Danone and at the same time we are also working with Arla on the same thing on the upstream and we are going to work together."

He said it would ensure sure their products were up to the standard they wanted and it would set the similar global standard and allow them to supply the product to their partners.

China's ambassador to New Zealand Wang Lutong said the project had grown from a back shop of a handful of people to a beautiful plant and he thanked the New Zealand Government for assisting with the factory's construction.

"New Zealand is one of the most important and attractive destinations for Chinese investment and it has the greatest potential. The plant here is today is our commitment to New Zealand."

Prime Minister John Key said the plant was a great vote of confidence in the New Zealand dairy sector.

China had made a significant investment in New Zealand and it marked "an incredibly important day in relations between China and New Zealand", Key said.

"I'm certainly very optimistic about the relationship between New Zealand and China. I think it will go from strength to strength."

Key said the two countries had set a target of $30 billion in trade between the two countries by 2020.

Yashili will buy milk powder off Fonterra this season before putting the supply agreement out to tender. It can process both milk powder and liquid milk into infant formula.

The production plant was designed to operate under strict quality controls with food safety a top priority. It uses the latest technology with temperature and humidity to be controlled around the clock, guaranteeing stable production and ensuring reliable product quality.

Yashili New Zealand canning and brand manager Rob Bott said the Chinese had given them the best of everything with the technology and facilities on offer. The factory has the facilities to process both milk powder and liquid milk into formula and can choose which to use based on its cost.

He said they were working with a number of companies in the future to supply their milk.

"We'll take it from anyone as long as it's from New Zealand."

The factory can process two cans of formula a second and each can carries a bar code allowing it to be traced back to the date it was processed and where each ingredient came from.

It is totally automated with staff on hand to monitor and record each batch of formula. The empty cans are sterilised using a UV system before the formula is placed in the cans by machines in its 'high care' area and sealed. The cans then travel along the automated line to the lower hygiene area for packing.

About half of the formula produced at the factory is 'base' infant formula powder that is packed into 25kg bags. The factory can produce eight tonnes of bagged formula every hour, producing a 1.4 tonne pallet every 15 minutes.

Once the factory is fully up and running, about 80 per cent of the product will be put directly into cans and 20 per cent into bags.

It is either sent to the canning line where heat-sensitive vitamins and minerals are added to the powder or is exported as a bag to be canned by Mengniu in China

See the full article here.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Housing boom spreads south of the Bombay border

Skyrocketing house prices mean Aucklanders’ can no longer ignore happenings south of the Bombay Hills, as competitive house and land packages spark a population explosion ‘south of the border.’

Figures show that North Waikato has turned a predicted population drop into positive growth figures. Statistics New Zealand predicted a declining population based on 2006 census results. This has been reversed by a growing trend of Aucklanders buying affordably in the region.

Pokeno and Waiuku are experiencing huge growth. The Waikato District Council expects Pokeno to triple from a population of around 2000 to 6000 by the mid-2000s. Census results from 2013 show a 28 per cent population increase since 2001. The positive growth figures are a huge turnaround for Pokeno, which was hit hard when State Highway One bypassed it for a new route in the early 1990s, leaving a population of just 500. Waikato District councillor Jan Sedgwick said Aucklander’s attitudes to towns south of the Bombay Hills was noticeably changing. “As it has become financially unviable for many people to live in Auckland, they’ve started looking over the hill and discovered it’s actually very attractive,” she said.

Former Auckland resident Ann Hardman said it was very unlikely she and her husband would move again. “We can actually get to our daughter and grandchildren’s place in Titirangi faster from here than we could when we lived in Gulf Harbour. With the ever-improving roading systems we’ve also got great proximity to Hamilton where we have other children and grandchildren.”

Housing Minister Nick Smith recently said the government’s KiwiSaver HomeStart scheme, which came into effect on 1 April, would help 90,000 first-home buyers begin the process of home ownership.
“The next key measure is our planned second phase of the Resource Management Act reforms to tackle the long-term issues affecting housing affordability and supply.”

Summed up from a resident’s perspective, “It is a wonderful place to be living in. It's a great spot between Auckland and Hamilton, the Coromandel peninsula and Raglan, and has that real country community feel. It's a wonderful place for children to grow up in, and for those who want to improve their lifestyle and leave the stresses of Auckland behind,” she said.

Data from shows there was a 114 per cent jump in the number of Aucklander’s using the website to search for Waikato properties during the mid 2014-15 period.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Yashili Dairy Plant construction well underway

Construction of the $220 million dairy plant within Pokeno's Gateway Business Park is well underway.

  • The project is on schedule and progressing well, says Yashili operations manager Terry Norwood
  • The plant will feature a range of process buildings, offices, warehouses, service structures and a 41-metre tall dryer tower. This will cover 30,000 square metres of the 67,100sqm site
  • The build is providing jobs for around 350 people at its peak, the main contractor being GEA
  • Hiring of around 120 operational staff has begun, aiming to produce 52,000 tonnes of infant formula a year
  • The plant is estimated to generate $72 million a year for Waikato's economy and $191m for the country
Monday, October 20, 2014

Moving on out?

Pokeno is on the up so why not invest in property out there!

Click on the image to start the video...

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Forget Auckland - it's Pokeno for a family and Kawerau to retire

Daniel and Sam Kealey with their 3-year-old son Kayden at their home in Botany Downs. Photo / Dean Purcell

Daniel and Sam Kealey bought their first home in Botany Downs when their son Kayden was born three years ago, but now the young family have outgrown the two-bedroom apartment.

The Kealeys paid $310,000 for the 80sq metre apartment with a swimming pool and gym complex, which is now being marketed in the mid-$400,000s.

But even with the promise of a sizeable profit, the young family struggled to find a suitable family home with a good-sized section for their son to kick a ball around in Auckland as they were all well out of their budget.

It was only when they started looking further south that they fell in love with Pokeno. The couple have bought a new four-bedroom, two-bathroom home on a 703sq metre section for $542,000.

"We pretty much looked everywhere in Auckland and it was just too expensive. For the same size place we are buying in Pokeno, up in Auckland it would be over a million dollars," Mr Kealey said.

"What's important is having a big place with a decent size section where the kids can run around as we plan to have another child."

Alan Devitt believes you can't look past Kawerau for value and lifestyle. The 79-year-old bought his first property in Kawerau three years ago for $130,000, and since then has bought another five houses - all for less than $100,000 each.

The town of 2500 had the fourth biggest decline in house sale prices - a 31.5 per cent drop from $159,249 in September 2007 to $109,141 in September this year, according to CoreLogic.

The retired businessman moved from the East Coast to Kawerau and he and wife Anne believe the town's affordability and its lifestyle, community feel, facilities and services, including medical care, were better than anywhere else in New Zealand.