Sleepyhead housing, manufacturing project set to proceed

Author
Andrea Fox, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 16 Dec 2021, 9:35AM
Sleepyhead's $1 billion site in Ohinewai, north Waikato. (Image / Supplied)
Sleepyhead's $1 billion site in Ohinewai, north Waikato. (Image / Supplied)

Sleepyhead housing, manufacturing project set to proceed

Author
Andrea Fox, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 16 Dec 2021, 9:35AM

The proposed $1.2 billion Sleepyhead Estate housing and manufacturing development at Ohinewai looks set to become a reality soon with appellants to the Environment Court resolving their issues ahead of a court date. 

Waikato District mayor Allan Sanson who has shepherded the proposal by the Sleepyhead bedmaker brand's Turner family through several years of red tape, told the Herald all outstanding matters had been resolved in pre-hearing talks. 

Notice of the agreement between appellants Waikato Regional Council, transport agency Waka Kotahi and the developers was registered with the Environment Court this morning, Sanson said. 

The two regulators had appealed the May decision of independent commissioners to allow rezoning of the Turner's land at Ohinewai in north Waikato for the development by Australasia's biggest bedmaker. 

The Turner family's company The Comfort Group plans up to 1100 new homes on 178ha and a large manufacturing centre. The company has outgrown its sites in Auckland and wants to provide homes for its staff who cannot afford Auckland house prices. 
 
Waikato Regional Council in a statement confirmed pending agreements had been reached. 

It said the development would be "improved" as a result of the pre-hearing discussions. 

The court would be told the regional council was confident it could enter into consent orders for court consideration that signalled resolution to its appeal points. 

A consent order is an agreement between the parties that needs to be placed before the judge for final determination. 

Regional council chair Russ Rimmington said it was "a great outcome". 

"Huge headway has been made by working together to solve some complex issues so we can ensure good amenities that will be used by people into the future. 

"We've focused on doing our best to make sure this development is the best. We've done that by brokering a very practical outcome and, as a result, the development will look different on the ground. 

But district council mayor Sanson tells it differently. 

He told the Herald the regional council "ran the clock right down" to yesterday, the talks deadline he had insisted on. 

"Their appeal did not cover off (truly) opposing it. It was about tiny little things like trying to get Waikato District Council to commit to funding public transport when we didn't know what would be required (by completion time) and putting a figure on 'affordable housing'. 

"You can't put a figure on affordable housing - if the Crown can't how the hell can we?" 

But he was confident the Turner family would provide affordable housing for their staff. 

Sanson said there was still paperwork to be done with the court after Christmas but all appeals had been satisfied. 

He was "pretty elated". 

"These sort of things don't come along often. It's been a long 3.5 year journey since Craig Turner and I first sat down about this. 

"It's been an arduous journey the last six months particularly. But I put a line in the sand for resolving this by yesterday." 

Rimmington said the Sleepyhead Estate would be "a good quality and functioning community for those who choose to live and work there". 

"As matters are signalled to be resolved through consent order, the matter is still before the court and a judge will still need to make the final decision. For that reason, I can only talk at a high level about the gains that have been achieved through the good discussions we've had with Ambury Properties Ltd (Auckland's Turner family) and Waikato District Council," he said. 

The regional council had a number of appeal points, Rimmington said. 

"Ensuring the future community at Ohinewai has good accessibility has been addressed through the development and agreement of a memorandum of understanding between Ambury Properties Ltd, Waikato District Council and Waikato Regional Council. As a result of the MOU, there will be ongoing discussions around the provision of staged public transport services. 

"The council believes other amended provisions will result in a better quality urban design, that encourages walking, cycling and the use of public transport. It will also mean improved connectivity of the proposal with the existing Ohinewai township and Huntly. 

"Through discussion, parties have also recognised the importance of offering a variety of housing types at differing price points." 

Sanson and the independent commissioners have sharply criticised the regional council and transport agency for their attitudes to a development claimed to generate up to 2600 new jobs, $8.5b for the Waikato economy over 10 years and much-needed new housing, 

Sanson in his words had "banged heads together" to get the two regulators to the talks table.