A king-sized development, including a new factory and zoning for up to 1,100 homes on a 178 hectare parcel of land at Ohinewai in North Waikato, has been given the green light by independent commissioners.

The land is owned by Ambury Properties, the property development arm of the Comfort Group, which last year made a submission under the Waikato District plan to rezone the site for the development of its Sleepyhead Estate, just north of Huntly.

The Comfort Group, Australasia's largest bedding and foam manufacturer and owner of the Sleepyhead and SleepMaker bedding brands, said the new manufacturing hub and community could create up to 2,600 jobs for the region, with potential construction of more than 1,000 homes over the next 10 years.

The group operates manufacturing facilities at Avondale and Otahuhu, but Comfort said both are operating beyond capacity, suffered from site and transport restrictions and were not fit for purpose.

The new facility will bring together the existing production and warehousing operations, and 1,000 workers, into a single 100,000 square metre Sleepyhead factory, across a 37ha site.

Comfort Group director Craig Turner said there will be a further 106,000 sqm of general industrial activity, covering an additional 26 ha, with an estimated 32,400sqm of commercial gross floor area and potential for a further 1,600 jobs.  

Staff housing

Turner said as part of the development proposal, the company will provide housing for its staff and their families, alongside bringing a thriving industry to the district, "alongside future associated job opportunities in the golden triangle between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga".

Wendy Alexander, acting chief executive at the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand welcomed the announcement, saying the proposed development will add significantly to Waikato's housing supply.

“House prices in the Huntly ward, which Ohinewai falls into, have risen by 72.4% in the last year alone," she said, with the median house price increasing from $290,000 in April 2020 to $500,000 by last month. 

Turner said the expected economic uplift over 10 years for the region would be about $8.6b, and "that's a massive uplift for any area".

The project has already received resource consents from the Waikato Regional Council and Waikato District Council for earthworks to prepare the site for its foam manufacturing facility, as well as an adjacent rail siding under the government's covid fast-track consenting process.

Both the council and the NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi had opposed the development, and now have a month to appeal the decision to the environment court.

Turner said construction should commence on the factory in early 2023, with occupation mid-2024, though that is dependent on earthworks and ground compaction.