After the Canterbury earthquakes many pundits predicted mass capital flight out of the region.
Three years on, for many industries the opposite is true and investment flows into the region are healthy.
One of the businesses to accelerate plans is Waterloo Business Park near Hornby to the west of the city, which is building on the opportunities.
The project is a joint venture between John Sax’s Auckland-based Southpark Corporation Ltd, Ian Tulloch’s Southland-based Tulloch Group and Southland investor Paul Johnstone.
Messrs Tulloch and Johnstone initially bought the old freezing works land in Islington in 2005.
When the earthquakes struck in 2011 many businesses were forced to relocate. In light of this the Waterloo developers sped up their plans and Mr Sax joined the partnership in March 2012.
The vision to transform the 114ha site into something world class took shape.
With several commercial developers also keen to seize the new post-earthquake market, Waterloo Business Park needed to offer something different.
The land is to be shaped into an industrial workplace with greenspace, hospitality, retail and additional amenities including free wi-fi throughout all public spaces, hyperfast broadband, 2.5ha of park, outdoor work spaces and solar power.
Mr Sax says he wanted to provide “for work-life balance and create a community connection.”
He says these factors are more important to people following the quakes.
“There’s more to it than just building bricks and mortar. We want to create somewhere where people want to be, where people can be part of their work community rather than just turning up to work at some drab industrial area,” Mr Sax says.
The decision to enter the Christchurch market wasn’t entered lightly. Canterbury’s industrial hub had long been established in neighbouring Hornby, with smaller pockets close to the CBD. With the quakes forcing many to shift from their premises or upscale, many are opting for facilities closer to main transport arterials, with links to the airport, port and rail. These were the aspects that attracted JV partner and logistics company owner Mr Tulloch when settling on the location.
“People involved in manufacturing, logistics and the rural sector need to be well connected. It’s about reducing transport costs and being surrounded by supporting businesses,” Mr Tulloch told the National Business Review.
Land sales at Waterloo Business Park have been successful, with 31.8ha sold and a further 17.5ha under contract. The development has also experienced good buy-in from local companies including Transdiesel, Irvine Flooring, Midland Brick, Conroy Removals and Santa Rosa Foods, with many others poised to sign in early 2014.
Santa Rosa owner Colin Neal says the move to Waterloo Business Park was a matter of ease of logistics.
“We were really pleased with how quickly we could get the project under way and we are really looking forward to moving in and getting going” Mr Neal says.
The project developer, Mirza Developments, anticipates the Santa Rosa design/build will be complete by June 2014. “We are fortunate that there are no post earthquake land issues at Waterloo, so things are very straightforward,” Mirza Developments General Manager Gary Noland says.
Waterloo Business Park owners anticipate that, once the development is complete, it will represent a major injection into the Canterbury economy, with more than $400 million spent in construction and a further $30 million in infrastructure and will support 5000 permanent employees within the park.
Read: the rest of the Christchurch Three Years On feature stories here