Gisborne Herald January 28, 2020 12:04PM
For the first time in eight years logs are being railed out of Wairoa, with Kiwi Rail expecting immediate benefits for the town and potential future benefits for the East Cape logging industry.
A loaded log train left Wairoa for Napier Port on Sunday after the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund invested $6.2 million to reopen the mothballed rail line which was closed after significant storm damage in 2012.
“If we are to avoid more logging trucks on the region’s roads, keep congestion under control and lower our transport emissions, rail is a necessity,” Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones said.
Trains will run from Wairoa on Saturdays and Sundays, carrying 1400 tonnes of logs each weekend. More train services are expected as harvests increase.
Wairoa Mayor Craig Little is thrilled to see the rail line back in use.
“This is a positive for Wairoa,” he said. “It will get logging trucks off the road, supports a Wairoa log yard and creates additional employment opportunities.”
Mr Little praised “the vision” of Mr Jones and the Government “for its investment in getting the rail line back up and running”.
“This Government has given areas like Wairoa the ability to believe in themselves again and has recognised the importance of rural new Zealand.
“Before this government, we were led to believe that living in rural areas was all doom and gloom. Now the regions are beginning to prosper and grow in confidence.
“It is not expected the rail will have a big impact on the roads initially but the rail option will hopefully reduce any additional logging trucks on the road and in the future my hope is that trucks will be carting from the Wairoa log yard and be based in Wairoa.”
Napier Port commercial general manager David Kriel said he was happy to see the first train pull into Napier port.
“KiwiRail has put in a lot of work behind the scenes to get the line running commercially, and it’s fantastic to see that work coming to fruition.
“It’s great to be able to assist in offering our Wairoa customers a safe, direct and sustainable alternative to trucking logs via State Highway 2. It will really help to unlock the economic potential of the Wairoa region.”
KiwiRail chief operating officer Todd Moyle said the public needed to be aware trains were once again operating on the line.
“Now our logging yard consents are in place, we will usually run two trains a week — on Saturdays and Sundays.
“With the track back in regular use, people travelling in the area will need to take special care around level crossings. Those crossing the tracks should expect trains at any time and from either direction.”
Initially, one of the main sources of freight on the line will be logs from local forests, bound for export through the Port of Napier.
Log export forecasts show a wall of wood will be ready for export within 18 months, and the volume of logs harvested will continue to grow over the coming years.
“So there is plenty of room for the services to grow,” Mr Moyle said.
“Growing thi s business will assist local businesses to harvest and transport large volumes of logs, help bring profitability to KiwiRail, benefit the East Cape region with less congestion and road wear and tear, and bring added benefits from lower emissions,” he said.
Last year a report from business and economic research agency BERL recommended the line be reinstated all the way to Gisborne at a cost of between $20 million and $23 million.