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Timaru named as main site for $344m Scott Base Redevelopment

December 2021

Latest News - E-News

Timaru named as main site for $344m Scott Base Redevelopment

December 2021

Timaru's selection as the main build site for the $344 million Scott Base redevelopment has been described as a "once in 50 years" opportunity.

It is estimated the six to eight year construction project, to be based at the town's port, will generate up to 700 jobs, with 170 jobs involved at the peak of the work.

Before construction begins in late 2022 on eight hectares of the Evans Bay reclamation land to the east of PrimePort's logging yard, the Timaru District Council will invest $1.5m in upgrading essential port infrastructure.

Timaru District mayor Nigel Bowen said the town’s port had offered the perfect mix of facilities and access to engineering talent to successfully complete the project, a statement supported by Antarctica New Zealand's chief executive Sarah Williamson who said there was not "one particular thing" that put Timaru ahead of Christchurch for the bid.

Williamson wouldn't divulge how many centres vied for the project, but did say "ports need available space to build and a deep harbour to take the vessel".

“We tried to look at the project really holistically. It was a real combination of commercials and the ability to provide flat land, and our confidence that we would work really well with the (Timaru) port.

“It's a unique build. We need a construction site that's nice and flat.

“We build it in its entirety on the site. We then cut it into bits. You need a great site to build but also really close access to the site for transporting.

“The biggest challenge is that you're not just building a building. It needs to have its own electricity generation, water plant and sewerage outlet, for instance. These are all things a town would normally provide.”

Williamson said the project was a "once in 50 years" opportunity.

“There aren't many opportunities to see Scott Base being rebuilt. Hopefully as many people as possible can see it being built, I think that's going to be quite exciting.

“Timaruvians will be able to watch the build as it happens.

“The entire base is being built at the port and will then be shipped south to Antarctica in eight modules on a massive ship.”

Williamson said construction in New Zealand allows a year-round build while Antarctica is in darkness for half of the year.

“It also means we can test and commission the buildings and make sure everything is working before they head south."

PrimePort's chief executive Phil Melhopt said the announcement had come after nearly two years of back-and-forth discussions with Antarctica NZ.

Melhopt would not comment on why Timaru was selected over Christchurch, but said, "from our point of view, we had the land available, and we had all the facilities available".

"There's still some work to do in getting the land prepared for the project, but we're expecting construction to begin sometime in 2022," he said.

"We're really excited about this, it's a huge endorsement of the can-do attitude from everyone involved in PrimePort."

Bowen said they couldn’t be more pleased about the news, adding “this is a massive vote of confidence in the Timaru District and our ability to play our part in deliver these large scale projects”.

“Timaru’s PrimePort is a resilient, well-resourced and well-connected port which has the room to grow, and we knew it would be the perfect home for this kind of project.

“There is knowledge, skills and talent throughout Canterbury that can be harnessed to help deliver the new long term home for Aotearoa in the Ross Dependency.”

“This is a unique and high profile project that will showcase Timaru both nationally and internationally and will have massive direct and downstream benefits for our local community.

“This project will bring millions of dollars of investment into our community, benefiting everyone from trades and subcontractors to accommodation and hospitality, and also offering education and cultural opportunities for our community.

“Watching an Antarctic research station take shape on our doorstep will be a fascinating process, and we know our community will take pride in knowing that we’ve contributed our bit to the decades of innovative climate science that Scott base will deliver.”

‘Significant opportunites’ ahead

Nigel Davenport, chief executive of economic development agency Venture Timaru, said the project will put Timaru on the map both nationally and internationally.

Davenport said there will be people coming from Christchurch and further afield to work on the project.

He said Timaru's capacity to support the Christchurch-based lead contractor was a key factor in Antarctic NZ's decision.

Davenport said he's "not at all worried" about the skills shortage affecting the project, which he said will act as an attractor for people to come to the area, nor was he concerned an influx of workers could exacerbate the housing shortage in Timaru.

"We have engaged with a number of the commercial accommodation providers and also private property investors and owners, and we will have a good lead in time."

Matthew Littlewood, Keiller MacDuff & Doug Sail

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