Vital we keep pushing for rail to be retained …

Original Article : “Wairoa Star” – Thursday 26th March 2015

‘Nash Notes’ –  Stuart Nash Labour MP for Wairoa/Napier writes :

Last week KiwiRail announced it would not allow the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council more time to develop its business case for the reinstatement of the Napier-Gisborne rail line. This is a shame.

I have long argued that first-world infrastructure is vital to attracting downstream processing to the East Coast as well as taking logs off the roads. In the end, however, KiwiRail’s decision apparently came down to a lack of clear revenue projections. This basically means there are not enough customers prepared to sign up to the rail service to ensure its financial viability and minimise the financial risk to the ratepayer.

So the challenge now exists for those pushing for the reinstatement of the line to go out and sell its benefits to potential customers.

I am one of these people who have pushed hard and advocated strongly for the rail line to be reinstated and so I will be talking with people like regional council councillors Alan Dick and Fenton Wilson to see if there is anything I can possibly do to help facilitate this process.

Other options put forward for the line are simply not realistic.  A group that wants to turn 30km of the line into a road has underestimated the cost of such a process by a factor of ten – instead of costing around $60 million, the cost would be closer to $600m.  And no government is going to stump up with that amount of money even if there was to be a by-election.

The idea of a cycle track is just barmy to the point when a parliamentary select committee (dominated by National MP’s) took about five minutes to turn down a request to investigate the feasibility of such an idea.

My view is still that we absolutely need this line in order to have an integrated transport network that incorporates road and rail (not one or the other) – however, the challenge is to sell this concept to those who will use it.  I believe those who are intimately involved with getting this project off the ground will get there – because this is the right thing for our electorate and those who call Napier and Wairoa home.

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PRESS RELEASE

Refusal of KiwiRail to extend timeframe for finalisation of a lease of the Napier Gisborne Railway

Don Selby, Chairman of Napier Gisborne Railway Ltd (NGR), advisers to the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council on the options for reopening all or part of the mothballed Gisborne to Napier railway, expressed disappointment that KiwiRail has advised today that it will not grant an extension of time to the Council to finalise a lease of the line.

Mr Selby notedthat KiwiRail was aware that NGR was working with the Council to prepare a business case for the total or partial reopening of the mothballed line.  KiwiRail was aware that the Corporate and Strategy Committee of the Council was meeting on 18 February and undertook to prepare a draft Heads of Agreement for consideration by the Council.

A draft document was received by the Council mid-afternoon on 17February which was insufficient time for the Council and its advisers to review the document and respond.  At the Corporate and Strategy Committee meeting on 18 February NGR advised the following:

  • There appears to be a viable case for reopening the line from Wairoa to Napier for the purpose of hauling export grade logs to Napier Port.
  • There were a number of matters outstanding relating to the draft Heads of Agreement submitted by KiwiRail that must be resolved before the Council could enter into a 30 year lease with KiwiRail.
  • Unless these matters were resolved it was most unlikely that any railoperator would be prepared to commit capital to the project.

TheCommitteerecommended to the full Council that it advise KiwiRailthat the Council agrees in principle to a lease of the line subject to the terms of the lease and a number of operational matters involving KiwiRail and a rail operator being resolved to the satisfaction of the parties.

The Committeerecommended that the Council seek a reasonable extension of the time to resolve the remaining issues that, with continuation of the goodwill and cooperation by all parties,should enable a successful conclusion to be agreed.

The Committee recommended a final deadline of 30 June 2015 for resolving all outstanding matters and the Council securing a rail operator with sufficient funding to undertake the proposed rail service.

These recommendations were ratified by the full Council on 25 February 2015 and communicated in writing to KiwiRail on 27 February 2015.

Between 27 February and today we understand that there have been only two high level meetings of the Council Chairman and Chief Executive with the Chief Executive of KiwiRail.  To the best of our knowledge at no stage during these meetings was there a discussion of the substantive issues outstanding.  The expected next stage in the process was a meeting to discuss the matters detailed in the report to the Corporate and Strategy Committee on 18 February and the draft KiwiRail Heads of Agreement.  No date has yet been set by KiwiRail for such a meeting.

This decision by KiwiRail is very disappointing in view of the decision by the Council to proceed as quickly as possible to resolve outstanding issues.  Despite the decision NGR remains ready and committed to work with the Council and KiwiRail to find an acceptable outcome.

 

ENDS

 

For further information please contact:

Don Selby 027 438 8472

Project to lease disused Bay railway makes fresh progress

(“Hawke’s Bay Today” – Fri 27th February 2015)

By Simon Hendery     simon.hendery@hbtoday.co.nz

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s plans to lease the mothballed Napier-Gisborne rail line appear to be on track after it was revealed this week the chief executive of KiwiRail intends visiting the region to discuss the proposal.

Last year the council set aside $5.46 million to potentially part-fund the resurrection of a freight service on the line.  Last week its corporate and strategic committee voted its “in principle” support for negotiating a lease with KiwiRail so the line could be used to ship logs from Wairoa to Napier Port.

That decision was ratified at a full council meeting on Wednesday where Regional Council chairman Fenton Wilson said he wrote to KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy last week to confirm the council’s interest in leasing the line.  “He wishes to come to the Bay and meet with me and see how this goes forward.”

In earlier correspondence, KiwiRail had given the council until March 1 to make a decision on whether it wanted to take the lease.

Mr Wilson said he had been playing “telephone tag” with Mr Reidy, so had not been able to clarify the company’s thinking, but he was confident negotiations could continue past March 1.  “The indication (from the council) is we’re interested in starting a formal negotiation around the lease of the line,” he said.  “It’s not the end of it but by the first of March we had to decide whether we were interested in leasing the line and we’ve indicated we are.”

The council had also tasked Mr Wilson with liaising with all groups interested in the proposal “to enhance the prospects of the

initiative succeeding”.  Those parties include the Napier Gisborne Rail Group, which had been attempting to find corporate funding for the proposal, Napier Port and other transport operators.

A KiwiRail spokeswoman said a meeting to discuss the issue was expected to be arranged.

 

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Napier – Gisborne Rail Update

Thursday March 12, 2015

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council Chairman Fenton Wilson says he’s hugely disappointed the council hasn’t been given an extension of time to investigate the possibility of leasing the Napier to Gisborne Rail corridor.

KiwiRail has today written to HBRC declining its request for more time in which to confirm its interest in leasing the Napier-Gisborne rail line.

The line was mothballed in December 2012, after storms earlier in the year caused severe damage, which is expected to cost close to $4 million to repair. Council commissioned a business case late last year on whether leasing the line was a good investment for the Council and the region.

Fenton Wilson thanked KiwiRail for the opportunity to consider the lease of the Napier to Gisborne rail line, recognising the importance of the security of that corridor to the region.

He acknowledged the work and passion of the Napier Gisborne Rail Group personnel, who he says will be extremely disappointed with this decision.

He says the council strongly supports KiwiRail’s intent to keep the line mothballed at this time rather than fully close it in order to provide for potential freight increases. Mr Wilson says this aligns with HBRC’s objective of retaining options for access into and out of the northern part of our region.

Media contact

Fenton Wilson, HBRC Chairman | P 027 4984 483

Liz Lambert, HBRC Interim Chief Executive | 027 428 5618

Helen Shea, Communications Specialist | P 06 833 8085, 027 662 5953