A new $150 million fresh produce distribution centre is being developed for Countdown in $600m project to be owned by Infratil’s predator and Australian’s largest superannuation fund.
AustralianSuper owns 24ha of land in south Auckland and it is that business across the Tasman which wants to buy Infratil.
Matthew Grainger, Woolworths NZ’s acting property general manager, showed progress at the Wiri site where Macrennie Commercial Construction is building the storehouse with a 2ha indoor floor area.
That building at 11 Puaki Dr will centralise Countdown’s fresh product operations in Auckland, replacing Palmerston North and Mt Wellington premises, Grainger said. At Mt Wellington, Countdown had a contract on its fresh produce with Turners & Growers.
Tony Catton, senior development manager for Singapore-headquartered LOGOS which is developing the site for AustralianSuper, said the Countdown facility was rising on a much larger 24ha bought in two tranches in 2019.
“All up, there will be $600m of development here and we’re already well advanced,” Catton said, citing a new meat facility for Hilton Foods NZ beside the Countdown and NZ Post’s new $100m-plus premises to be the size of three rugby fields.
LOGOS is working for AustralianSuper to create the Wiri Logistics Estate which Catton said would then be owned by the super fund’s vehicle, AS NZ Property Wiri Trust.
Australian retirees will then benefit from the rent and value increase being generated by Countdown, NZ Post and the many other operations which will rent new purpose-built premises at Wiri near State Highway 20.
Catton said Countdown had an initial 15-year lease on the new building, with subsequent rights of renewal.
In December, AustralianSuper launched a takeover bid for New Zealand’s Infratil, which owns half of Vodafone NZ, a majority stake in Wellington International Airport and local energy assets.
“Plus we’re starting building a 12,000sq m spec building which is also industrial and we’re close to securing tenants,” Catton said of a fourth project on the 24ha site.
Grainger said Countdown’s new 20,000sq m building on a 4ha site would be chilled in zones of 2 degrees for leafy vegetables, grapes and apples, 7 degrees for citrus and capsicums and 13 degrees for avocados, bananas, tomatoes and potatoes.
In addition, a large ripening area will be built specifically for avocados and bananas, using gas in that process.
The site was once Winstone Aggregates’ quarry but fill from the Waterview Tunnel was used on what Grainger said had been a pit 20m deep at its lowest point. Fletcher Building then sold the land for the new industrial estate.
Meat from Hilton Foods NZ will be transferred from that building into the new Countdown fresh product block via an air bridge, Grainger said, meaning trucks can be loaded with both fresh fruit and vegetables and meat to be taken to North Island supermarkets.
“This brings us a new way of operating as well as efficiencies of scale,” Grainger said.
Sarah Southwell, Woolworths NZ senior project manager, said the building would be so big, it would be able to handle 350,000 crates of fresh produce at once.
Some walls and part of the roof structure of the building are up. It has a 15m internal stud at its highest point.
Tim O’Leary, Macrennie managing director, said the largest building his business had built was Foodstuff’s new headquarters at The Landings near the airport. That structure was 74,000sq m, he said.
Steve Mills, Countdown’s General Manager Merchandise, said the new plant would be the first purpose-built one operated by Countdown.
“This will mean we can deliver to stores faster, more efficiently and with a much greater focus on our environmental footprint.We’ve also included in our plans a space for ripening rooms and a packhouse with all of the latest machinery to ensure that Kiwi staples of locally grown fruit and vegetables are delivered to stores perfectly,” Mills said.
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