Press Release – News A Plenty
An impressive long-term project to turn a disused sawmill site in Putaruru into a 14.5 ha supercentre in the North Island’s rural heartland has entered the development stage.
New building is expected to start within six months to create a multi-pronged complex offering full rural servicing, retail shopping, automotive sales and servicing, a medical centre and a trade park alongside State Highway 1 in South Waikato, providing covered floor space totalling about 43,000 sqm.
A 5 ha Agri Park will dominate the five-year development, covering all aspects of farm life from rural machinery and supplies through to tertiary-level education, including a long-overdue New Zealand Farming Hall of Fame and a history of agriculture shed. It will also operate as a permanent agricultural field day, providing hands-on sales opportunities for every sector of rural industry.
The creative planning of three Tauranga-based investors, the site was chosen because of its location within less than an hour’s drive of more than 16,000 farms and the main urban centres of Hamilton, Tauranga, Rotorua and Te Kuiti. It’s on SH1, which is used by at least 10,000 cars a day, and has its own railway sidings. They also have an eye on attracting tourists via the three major airports close by, and Tauranga’s cruise ship port, which alone will bring in 185,000 tourists next year.
Known as Buttermilk Putaruru, the supercentre will also house a supermarket and factory outlet shops, a centre for rural education, and a medical centre within the Retail Park quadrant. There is further space for an Auto Park for fuel, vehicle wash and new vehicle sales and servicing, with overnight park-over facilities, and a Trade Park to cater for industries such as stock feed suppliers, machinery and plant manufacturers and logistics and warehousing firms.
Economic impact and tourism reports suggest the site will create more than 400 jobs in a region where many people have to commute to the bigger towns for work. Being adjacent to the central business district, Buttermilk Putaruru will also add to the main street structure in Putaruru to fulfil the retail needs of locals currently shopping out of town as well.
The development is awaiting resource consent and a rezoning to business use for part of the site; however the South Waikato District Council is right behind the proposal. Mayor Neil Sinclair and his council have been fully briefed by Buttermilk’s owners, and the community and local iwi have been involved through presentations and a well-publicised local survey.
“As a council we greatly applaud this imaginative and visionary plan to resurrect Putaruru,” says Mayor Sinclair. “It is gratifying to see outside developers recognise the economic advantages of doing business in Putaruru. Our central location, our available land at a reasonable cost, a talented work force and most of all a business-friendly Council makes financial sense for any developer to work in the South Waikato.”
The three men behind the plan – Dave Macfarlane, Sam Wulff and Paul Washer – intend to utilise some of the existing buildings on the site to showcase the workmanship in the wooden roof beams. They will schedule the development of new buildings on the site to suit the requirements of prospective tenants or businesses wanting to have a stake in such a novel project.
“Our first move is to secure a supermarket for the Retail Park, and this could well be a reality within six months,” says Dave Macfarlane. “With limited publicity we have already had expressions of interest for many of the smaller retail sites within the complex, which will include factory outlet shops.
“It was always our intention to create a rural supercentre here though, and the Agri Park is the primary driver for the site. It will be fantastic to have a New Zealand Farming Hall of Fame and we expect the interactive history of farming facility will also be a big draw card. We have received heart-warming support from the community and it is clear that Buttermilk will be the catalyst for a fresh wave of local business entrepreneurs.”
The trio commissioned Auckland-based architect Fabian Douglas & Associates to create conceptual plans for the full site, which can be viewed via the website buttermilk.co.nz or within the visitor centre on site that is run for them by former Pride in Putaruru manager Annie Waterworth.
“We invite people to take a look at our plans and discuss their needs with Annie. She knows everything there is to know about Putaruru, and the town could not have a keener advocate,” says Sam. “We will be flexible in our construction phase and will respond proactively to prospective tenants’ requirements.”
Annie fully appreciates the devastating impact on the town when Carter Holt Harvey closed the site in 2008 with the loss of 230 jobs. “This is a resilient town, but some people had to move out, even go overseas, after the mill closure. The local high school has lost about 40 families, and the community lost about $10m a year in wages. For us, Buttermilk is what’s left after the big boys have flogged the cream, and we’re going to make something sweet!”