C3 picked to run Tainui's Ruakura inland port

Contractor Fulton Hogan has already started construction on the first stage of the port development.

C3, the local on-wharf logistics firm owned by Linx Cargo Care Group, has been picked out of seven bids to operate Waikato-Tainui's inland port at Ruakura on Hamilton's city limits.

Tainui Group Holdings, the commercial arm of the North Island iwi, has signed up to a joint venture with Linx, which will take a 30-year lease on the inland port land, and use C3 to run the port's day-to-day operations. The deal will also see C3's own business go through the inland port, which aims to service the country's two biggest import and export hubs in Auckland and Tauranga as a complementary service to their own logistics operations.

Contractor Fulton Hogan has already started construction on the first stage of the port development, which is expected to be completed in the first half of 2019 at a cost of $50 million. Ultimately, the port operations would span 30 hectares and a logistics precinct another 60 hectares, out of the 485 hectare site returned to Tainui in its 1995 settlement with the Crown.

"C3 has a strong and loyal customer base. they have deeply integrated relationships with forest owners, primary wood processors, importers, manufacturers and shipping lines," TGH chief executive Chris Joblin said. "These are among the sectors Ruakura is designed to service, by providing customers with a supply chain that will deliver a choice of port and shipping providers; efficiencies gained from Ruakura's significant scale; multiple transport options; and a site that offers the ability to scale up and meet future and current needs."

Waikato-Tainui will continue to own the land underneath the port, which will attract rental fees, and also the rail sidings.

TGH sought expressions of interest for the port operator last year, which it said attracted seven potential port operators.

C3 was half-owned by Port of Tauranga until 2012 when Australia's Asciano bought out its Kiwi partner, and its ownership changed hands more recently when a consortium led by Brookfield Asset Management took Asciano private last year.

Linx chief executive Anthony Jones says that private ownership means the logistics firm can take a longer-term view on investments, matching the horizon taken by Tainui.

The inland port will look to use its location on the East Coast rail main trunk line and the Waikato expressway upgrade, and TGH's Joblin said they negotiating with prospective customers and tenants for the port and logistics hub.

Tainui's investment also has social goals in that it will regenerate wetlands in Ruakura site, generate jobs in the local economy, and remove trucks from the country's roads by shifting more freight on to rail. Joblin said they were working with Kiwirail to figure out how best to access the rail network.