Tainui Group Holdings is seeking expressions of interest from port operators for its planned multi-billion dollar inland port development just outside of Hamilton.
TGH chief executive Chris Joblin said after years in planning and hearings, Ruakura has cleared zoning and resource consent hurdles for the first stage of the inland port and logistics hub.
They now want to appoint a port operator to have input on its construction which will get under way later this year. The deadline for formal expressions of interest is September 30.
The 480 hectare Ruakura development incorporates a 33ha inland port and 84ha logistics zone.
Mr Joblin wouldn't confirm the cost of developing the inland port, though a figure of $3.3 billion has been cited for the entire development.
Mr Joblin said they were looking for a New Zealand or overseas-based port operator that has no existing ties with the Port of Tauranga or Ports of Auckland at the request of potential customers.
"Port neutrality - providing the flexibility for importers and exporters to access both seaports so they can get the best deals and manage risks is a key part of the Ruakura proposal," he said.
The inland port sits to the east of Hamilton and is equidistant to both major North Island ports.
The operator will be an option to invest in the site infrastructure, including loading and uploading areas adjacent to the planned rail siding.
Mr Joblin said the extensive use of rail will take up to 65,000 truck journeys off the road once the inland port is in full swing.
He expects the inland port to be profitable from "the get go" despite Ports of Auckland announcing it planned to build a competing 33ha logistics hub at the Northgate Business Park in Horotiu, just north of Hamilton.
Key players in the export and imports sector are said to have already approached TGH but Mr Joblin said none had been signed up at this early stage and he expected that to happen progressively over the 18-month construction timeframe.
TGH is the investment arm for Waikato-Tainui and its investments include a 50 percent share in The Base shopping centre in Hamilton along with fishing, farms and forestry.