An artist’s impression of the $1.2 billion Sleepyhead Estate development planned for Ohinewai.

$1.2 billion Sleepyhead Estate at Ohinewai receives resource consents for Foam Factory

Resource consents for The Comfort Group’s Ohinewai Foam Factory have been granted by the Expert Consenting Panel (ECP), under the Government’s fast-track consenting process.

The foam factory is the first stage of The Sleepyhead Estate; a unique, master-planned development at Ohinewai, North Waikato, which comprises a $1.2 billion, 178-hectare manufacturing hub and residential community.

The ECP was set up under the fast-track consenting process established by the Ministry for the Environment as part of the COVID-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Act 2020. That Act provides for a quicker consenting process to fast-track selected projects that can boost employment and economic recovery.

The resource consents granted by the ECP permit the construction and operation of the Sleepyhead Foam Factory and an adjacent rail-siding.

“This is a significant milestone for both The Comfort Group, and for the Waikato region. It will allow us to proceed with consolidating our Auckland manufacturing plants into a more efficient, state-of-the-art facility at Ohinewai. In the coming years, all of our manufacturing will be located at this site,” says Craig Turner, Director of The Comfort Group.

“While this is crucial to the future of The Comfort Group’s operations, we also look forward to this development being a catalyst for a wider industrial zone proposed at Ohinewai.

“We appreciate the Government’s initiative to establish the fast-track consent process, to enable regionally significant projects such as The Sleepyhead Estate to proceed at pace.

“I would also like to thank the ECP, who processed our applications thoroughly and in a timely manner, despite the extensive information and complexities that come with a considerable development such as this,” says Mr Turner.

Fast-Track Consent Process

Ambury Properties Limited (APL), the property-owning arm of The Comfort Group, lodged applications for consents for the foam factory and an adjacent rail-siding with the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) on 14 May 2021. These were accepted for processing on 21 May.

As part of the processing of the applications, the ECP invited comments from various parties with an interest in the proposal as set out by the COVID-19 legislation. That included adjacent landowners and Government departments. Sixteen sets of comments were received, and APL provided additional information to address these matters.

Foam Factory Detail

The resource consents for this first stage cover five buildings and associated infrastructure over a site area of approximately 38 hectares. It also includes a rail siding that provides for access to the North Island Main Trunk railway line. This will enable easy access to the Ports of Auckland and Tauranga, and a reduction in heavy vehicle traffic and carbon emissions.

Resource consents for earthworks to prepare the site for the foam factory were granted earlier this year from the Waikato Regional Council and the Waikato District Council. These works are underway and will take five months to complete.

Building consents for the foam factory will be lodged in stages with the Waikato District Council, with the first being lodged in late 2021. Construction on the first buildings on site is expected to commence in April 2022, with the foam factory expected to be operational in early 2023.

Waikato District Council Land Rezoning

The resource consents are separate to Waikato District Council’s decision in May, to rezone the 178-hectare development site as part of the Proposed Waikato District Plan process.

In July, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and the Waikato Regional Council lodged appeals in the Environment Court against the Waikato District Council’s decision.

The Waikato District Council is now engaged with all parties, including The Comfort Group, on the appeal process.