“The Base” retail and commercial centre at Te Rapa, on the northern entry to Hamilton City, was developed by Tainui Group Holdings (TGH) on behalf of the Waikato-Tainui tribe.

The Story of Base

The 29 hectare block of land that The Base sits on traditionally belonged to Waikato-Tainui. It was taken prior to World War II by the Crown under the Public Works Act for defence purposes, and became the Te Rapa Air Force Base (hence the name), which eventually closed in 1992.

The land came back to the tribe in 1995 as part of the Waikato-Tainui Raupatu (land confiscation) settlement. It was put into what is known as Pootatau Te Wherowhero title (named after the first Maaori King), which means it can never be sold or alienated.


A Big Vision

From the earliest days of the settlement process the site was identified for commercial re-development – being within the growing area of Hamilton, adjacent to the main trunk railway, and at the intersection of State Highway One and the main east and west arterial routes. Planning began in 1998 and a huge amount of preliminary design work was undertaken to determine the best approach.

In 2002 TGH announced their intention to build a $50m retail development that would eventually cover over 60,000 sqm of retail and commercial space. The initial resource consents were lodged, requiring a change to the Hamilton City District Plan, which the Council agreed to. However, there was a year of delays while a number of objectors appealed the Council approval to both the Environment and High Courts. Both challenges were lost and work finally began in August 2004.

The overall development design is based on a horseshoe, split by Maahanga Drive (the internal spine road) and surrounded by significant car-parking. The retail centre is a hybrid development – including large format retail, an outlet centre, and a specialty mall including leisure activities.

At the core of the site are three very important pou (carved poles). The first is symbolic, representing traditional guardianship of the site; the second acknowledges the recent presence of the Royal New Zealand Air Force; the third is a contemporary design that depicts the present day, and modernisation of the tribe.


Strategic Partnership Cements Early Success

In 2002 The Warehouse Group (TWG) was signed up as the anchor tenant of stage one of The Base. The first 16,000 sqm was to house one of their largest stores,and the first with the new store format that is in use today throughout the country.

Within two years the relationship between TGH and TWG had evolved into a 50/50 joint venture for the first two stages. The relationship with TWG was very important as they had already achieved considerable success in operating and developing large format retail stores.

TGH’s intention was to develop the following stages itself and apply what it learnt from the joint venture – an understanding of the dynamics of retail, forging relationships with key contractors and coming to grips with the statutory requirements and mechanics of constructing and managing leases with retail tenants. One of the key benefits was getting validation from TWG that TGH’s plan and vision for The Base was the right one.


Stores Start Opening

TWG’s new store and a number of national and local retail operators opened between 2005 and 2006. In 2006 stage three saw the opening of the Waikato region’s only outlet centre, and in 2007 one of the country’s biggest Mitre 10 Mega stores was opened on the northern side of The Base, an area which TGH had retained to develop in its own right.

Kotahitanga – Sole Ownership

In July 2007 TGH bought out TWG’s 50% stake. The joint venture still had two years to run but the timing was right for both parties for a transfer of ownership.

In April 2009 TGH announced that Farmers Trading would become the anchor tenant of a new 26,000 sqm mall development, and would build an 8,000 sqm flagship store as the first step.

The mall has a substantial retail, food, hospitality and leisure focus and over 800 underground car parks. Construction was completed in late 2010.

Today, The Base provides over 87,000 sqm of retail space, 3,000+ free car parking spaces, over 160 retail tenancies, including over 30 food outlets.

The joint venture partners for The Base are Tainui Group Holdings and Kiwi Property Group.