Sale sees council step back from park

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Waikato Innovation Park has been bought by Rotorua businessman Neil Foster. Photo / Supplied
Waikato Innovation Park has been bought by Rotorua businessman Neil Foster. Photo / Supplied

The sale of Waikato Innovation Park on December 15 has put $10 million back into the Hamilton City Council's purse, $6 million of which will go into the proposed Waikato Regional Theatre.

The property assets of Waikato Innovation Park were bought by Rotorua businessman Neil Foster after the council determined in 2016 it was not the right party act as property investor to achieve the vision of the Park's masterplan.

The net sale of funds to council was approximately $10 million.

Waikato Innovation Park is a unique business park that leverages collaboration around the agribusiness industry. It is located on Ruakura Lane.

Hamilton City Council executive director special projects Blair Bowcott says there was a robust sale process as the council wanted to ensure the vision of the park would continue under new ownership.

"Mr Foster's investment in Waikato Innovation Park is to be applauded — we know he understands and values the purpose and achievements of the park, so we are very pleased with this announcement," Mr Bowcott said.

"The initial goals of that investment have been achieved. From a single building 16 years ago, the park now has four buildings including a spray dryer and is home to 46 tenants who between them employ more than 1600 staff."

"The park is ready to move to the next phase, and the council felt another investor would be better positioned to achieve the vision of the park's master plan. While we have been delighted with the success of the park, our goals have been achieved and further investment is not core business for the council."

Hamilton City Council will remain strongly involved in Waikato Innovation Park's subsidiary, NZ Food Innovation Waikato, which owns the spray-dryer building on site.

About $4 million of the initial purchase price of the property arm of the Park will be channelled back into NZ Food Innovation Waikato.

The Council was already a 70 per cent shareholder of NZ Food Innovation Waikato through its ownership of Innovation Park, and will remain a 70 per cent shareholder of NZ Food Innovation Waikato after the sale of Waikato Innovation Park.

The park is distinctive in New Zealand in that it was established with public money and funding from WEL Energy Trust, the government and Hamilton City Council.

It provides a collaborative environment for innovators in agribusiness and more than two-thirds of its tenant firms are exporters — collectively their gross turnover was more than $427 million in 2016, up 42 per cent from $300 million in 2015.

Mr Foster says it will be business as usual for the park and its tenants.

"It's a winning formula for a huge economic success story thanks to a great philosophy and an array of technology based businesses," Mr Foster said.

Mr Bowcott said that the sale is the right for both parties.

"This has been a very good outcome for both the park and the council. It allows us to invest the sale proceeds into further assets for our community, while allowing the park to continue its development as an economic and innovation success story for the city and the wider region," Mr Bowcott said.

- Hamilton News

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