Gisborne Rail Co-op flies flag for Gisborne-Napier line

by Wynsley Wrigley

Published: Gisborne  Herald April 7, 2017 11:09AM

THE Gisborne Rail Co-op (GRC) has not given up the fight to retain the Gisborne-Napier line.

Interim chairwoman Nikki Searancke told yesterday’s Gisborne District Council meeting that KiwiRail’s selection of adventure-tourism operator Gisborne Railbike Adventures to use the Gisborne-Wairoa rail line “runs counter to long-standing council policy to support train operations”.

She described rail as a major commercial transport artery for the region.

“If we do not take leadership and change the course of this KiwiRail decision, the donors — hapu and iwi of Tairawhiti and Ngati Kahungunu — will take back their land and the railway will be lost permanently.”

GRC was confident of presenting a proposal to KiwiRail’s successful bidder and Gisborne City Vintage Rail (the operator of steam locomotive Wa165) for a commercial rail freight business with passengers and tourists “on the railway as it was intended”.

GRC was seeking further information from KiwiRail.

Local men had built the rail line, and 21 were killed during its construction, she said.

Gillian Ward, also of GRC, said KiwiRail’s decision was disappointing.

Because of the cost of maintenance, Gisborne Railbike Adventures and Gisborne City Vintage Rail could only operate a sustainable business with a rail freight operator.

‘Rail champion’

Mayor Meng Foon had been “Gisborne’s rail champion’’ and in 2012 delivered a petition to Parliament with 10,000 signatures calling to keep the line.

Mrs Ward said at a meeting held in 2013 attended by KiwiRail, Mr Foon, Gisborne district councillors and businesses including LeaderBrand and Weatherell Transport showed huge support for the rail line and the resumption of freight and tourism.

“These business leaders are not pro-rail, they support rail because they want good infrastructure.”

Mr Foon had summed up the meeting by saying, “our region deserves good infrastructure, good hospitals, schools, roads, rail”.

“I ask you now, why should we not expect these things for Gisborne?” Mrs Ward said.

Greater need now

She said the need for rail was greater now than in 2012.

The “big packhouses” struggled to find enough trucks and drivers to get their produce to Napier at a time of drought.
Frozen produce, fertiliser, landfill, road metal and, in particular, processed timber would provide all-year freight.

She said claims that Eastland Port would be disadvantaged by rail could not be substantiated.

Council support for rail freight would ensure rail was included in an integrated transport priority plan and encourage central government investment.

The council also considered a recommendation from Mr Foon, who was absent, to support completion of a feasibility study on an extended Gisborne to Napier cycle and rail trail.

Mr Foon’s paper said the Government had promoted the rail trail as an action in the Tairawhiti Action Plan.

It was also included in the Hawke’s Bay Regional Economic Development Strategy and Action Plan.

Councillors decided to let the matter lie on the table until Mr Foon could speak on the matter at the next meeting.

Brian Wilson said there was insufficient information for councillors to make a decision.

Rail potential part of NZTA research

Source : Gisborne Herald March 11, 2017 10:50AM

Rail transport will be ‘looked at’.

AN NZTA bureaucrat has told the regional transport committee that rail transport will be looked at in actions the NZ Transport Agency is taking in support of the regional economic plan launched in Gisborne last week.

NZTA acting director for regional relationships for the lower North Island, Lisa Rossiter, was reporting to the committee on actions the agency would be taking to support the economic plan, including leading the development of an integrated transport priority plan for the Gisborne region.

Asked by Meredith-Akuhata Brown whether the integrated plan would involve talking with residents including those supporting a rail link, she replied “most definitely.”

The agency would also lead the investigation into upgrading inter-regional highway connections from the Bay of Plenty through to Hawke’s Bay for horticulture and tourism.

It would also lead the investigation into upgrading State Highway 35 and its connecting routes for forestry, tourism, and economically under-used land within the region.

It would contribute to delivery of training in lifelong employability skills, including driver licence mentor training. It would keep a watching brief on work to design and upgrade the Cook landing site and contribute to work to expand mobile phone coverage, she said.

The transport committee agreed to add three items worth $1.5 million included in the package announced by the Cabinet ministers to the regional land transport plan.

Upgrading

These were the upgrading of rest area facilities on State Highway 35 and the creation of five new ones, replacement of the Horoera Bridge on East Cape Road, and improving the connections between the Rere Falls Heartland Ride and the Motu Great Ride.

Graeme Thomson said meat processing should be added to the investigation into upgrading the State Highway 2 link from the Bay of Plenty for horticulture and tourism.

The district did not have a meat processing plant and that would be a bigger transport need than tourism or horticulture. Why would that not be included?

Committee chairman Bill Burdett said quite a lot of sectors that should have been interviewed in the preparation of the economic plan were not and that was probably why meat processing was not included.

The council’s new chief executive Nedine Thatcher Swann said the regional economic plan was a living document and this was something that could be added into it. There were a number of other transport options that had the potential to unlock more funding through the plan.

Mr Thomson said this was one of the first things that should be added to the plan — “Let’s do something about it.”

Sam Aberahama asked why the transport committee had not been involved in preparation of the regional economic plan.

Ms Thatcher Swann said the process was that this was a business-led plan. A lot of it was embargoed until the release. Even the councillors had not seen the plan until probably a week before its release.

The committee eventually agreed to add the words livestock and other economic initiatives to horticulture and tourism in the development of a business case for the upgrading of State Highway 2.

KiwiRail expected to decide on rail next year …

(“Gisborne Herald” – Fri 23rd Dec 2016)

 A decision on what is next for the Wairoa-Gisborne section of railway line is expected to be formalised in the first three months of the new year.

KiwiRail last month announced it was looking for “innovative tourism ventures” that would make use of the mothballed line and a KiwiRail spokesperson has confirmed that the deadline for expressions of interest in the Wairoa to Gisborne section of the Napier-Gisborne line closed at 2pm on Wednesday.

“KiwiRail are in the processes of reviewing the submissions and will announce the outcome of the tender in the first quarter of 2017.”

The company had previously stated it was looking for ventures that would help grow the region and retain critical track infrastructure without requiring any capital expenditure or maintenance.

In 2012, the Napier to Gisborne line sustained severe storm damage and the line was mothballed for safety reasons.

An earlier request for EOI’s for the full line from Gisborne to Napier 18 months ago attracted considerable interest.

KiwiRail has already reached a commercial agreement with Napier Port to run a dedicated log service on the Napier-Wairoa section of the line.

It also agreed to a deal with Gisborne City Vintage Railway to operate a steam engine on the Gisborne-Muriwai section. That means the full line is no longer available.

Local consortium

At least one proposal to use a section of the mothballed Gisborne to Wairoa line was from a locally-based consortium.

Gisborne Rail Co-operative (GRC) Steering Group interim chairwoman Nikki Searancke said the group was pleased to have submitted a proposal to KiwiRail.  The GRC proposal incorporated commercial freight and tourism.

“We support Gisborne Vintage Railway which plays a key role in taking tours to Muriwai, and we are sure that tours to Beach Loop and Beyond would be an international winner.

“On the commercial freight side of Gisborne, there are more than 20 businesses that have indicated their need for full containerisation by rail out of Gisborne.

“Further, GRC welcomes the support of Hawke’s Bay Regional Council and transport committee to the GRC proposal. “We are very pleased that the submission by their committee chairman Alan Dick supports us. “They also need to carry freight from Kopuawhara to Napier.”

Qualified support for rail

source : Gisborne Herald

Published: February 18, 2017 9:58AM

Regional council says GDC needs to invest.

A Gisborne consortium working to reopen the mothballed Gisborne to Wairoa railway line would be likely to receive backing from the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council — but HBRC says Gisborne District Council also needs to stump up with investment first. That is something Mayor Meng Foon says he does not favour.

In December, KiwiRail accepted three expressions of interest to operate the line, including one from the Gisborne Rail Co-operative (GRC) that would combine short-haul freight and tourism uses.

Following a presentation from the group this week, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s Corporate and Strategic Committee recommended that the regional council should send a clear message that it continues to support efforts to get the Wairoa to Gisborne section of the Napier-Gisborne line reopened.

GRC interim chairwoman Nikki Searancke said a joint approach between the regional council and Gisborne District Council was vital.

“That’s really what we went down to Hawke’s Bay for. We went to seek their co-operation to do this next stage. We recognise that HBRC have been very successful in working with KiwiRail, so we’re keen to work with Hawke’s Bay.”

Gisborne Rail Co-operative (GRC) made a presentation to the Corporate and Strategic Committee meeting asking the council to make a joint approach to KiwiRail for consideration of GRC’s proposal to reopen the Gisborne end of the Napier-Gisborne line for freight, as well as for tourism services.

HBRC contribution contingent on GDC money

The committee recommended that HBRC continue to offer its support for the preservation and preferably the restoration of rail freight options for the Wairoa to Gisborne section of the Napier-Gisborne rail line. Committee chairman Neil Kirton told GRC members that a business case was urgently needed for reopening the Wairoa to Gisborne rail line and it was essential that Gisborne District Council show its support for the proposal.

If GRC could get a commitment from the District Council to put some money towards developing a business case, then HBRC would also consider contributing some money.

Councillor Alan Dick told the meeting that HBRC’s Regional Transport Committee would hold its regular meeting in Wairoa on March 10. The visit was part of a commitment through ‘Matariki – the Hawke’s Bay Regional Economic Development Strategy’ to improve road transport options north, and rail would certainly be on the agenda.

The Napier to Gisborne line has not been used since it was damaged in 2012. Last year KiwiRail reached a commercial agreement with Napier Port to repair the Napier to Wairoa section to run a dedicated log service. It had earlier agreed to a deal with Gisborne City Vintage Railway to operate a steam engine on the Gisborne-Muriwai section, ending at Beach Loop.

Ms Searancke said she was encouraged that GDC councillors had attended a rail forum last year.

“So I’m extremely pleased that they did go to the forum and I think they will support us when we go to GDC and put our presentation to them.”

A decision on the future of the line is expected by the end of March.

Government should pay: Foon

However, Gisborne Mayor Meng Foon said while the topic could be discussed again at council meetings, it had been the council’s view that the Government should be the one to pay to fix the line, since the Government owned the line.

“We have enough projects to pay for in our own district, such as roads, stormwater, Waipaoa flood control and much more. I won’t support ratepayer money for the railway line. My personal view and my lobby to the Government and KiwiRail is to fix the line — if not, then make a rail trail.”

Mr Foon said it was “frustrating” that the region had lost out on “four years of employment and investment” due to the delay in restoring the line.

Using the rail corridor to establish a rail trail between Gisborne and Napier airports could provide a project that could transform the region, he said.

Rail consortium on cards

Source : The Gisborne Herald –  November 8, 2016

Forum moots short-haul service on restored line.

MOVES are afoot to create a local consortium to run a short-haul rail line between Gisborne and Wairoa, as the future of the 90km line looks like being the main issue East Coast candidates will be fighting over in next year’s general election.

Speaking at a Tairawhiti Rail Forum yesterday, Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters and Labour Party transport spokeswoman Sue Moroney all backed restoration of the line as being good for the economy, environment and population.

All three party speakers agreed the line should reopen as part of an integrated transport policy — a belief previously stated by the Green Party, leaving National as the only party not in favour of reopening the line.

Mr Peters said the only way to get the rail line back was to vote for it, while Ms Fox said she would be “right behind” local people demanding its return. Ms Moroney said a better Government “buy-in” for rail was needed nationally.

Shortline suggestion

Yesterday’s forum heard a restored link would help productivity from Maori land, improve road safety and reduce the financial burden on maintaining the region’s poor roads. It would also help tourism. Rail consultant Stu Dow told the forum that a US-style shortline operation was achievable financially and practically.

“I believe a shortline railway operation is the key to restoring a general rail freight service to the Napier-Gisborne line, provided the figures stack up. Personally, I believe they do. A general rail freight service is different from the proposed Napier-Wairoa log trains, as it would be aimed at containers, aggregates, wool, fertiliser and the like.

“A shortline was not a threat to Gisborne’s port and its export log traffic, and would help alleviate the truck gridlock by operating a log shuttle from Matawhero to the port. I see a log shuttle as the anchor customer for a successful shortline.”

Mr Dow said the shortline operation would also relieve KiwiRail of its mothballing costs, plus pay them a yearly lease fee.

“In addition, a track access fee would be payable to KiwiRail for accessing their network from Wairoa to Napier to drop off wagons for the port, Ravensdown at Awatoto and any other Napier/Hastings customers that are rail-connected. Hopefully, reopening of the line would also attract freight from other parts of New Zealand via the KiwiRail network for final delivery on the shortline, which would also be a win for KiwiRail — provided their rates were realistic.

“To get the ball rolling, a consortium needs to be formed of all interested local parties, be they businesses, iwi, and/or investors to open a dialogue with KiwiRail/Government with a view to obtaining a long term licence to occupy the line to the Napier Port/KiwiRail agreement boundary.”

Cost estimates

Mr Dow estimated it would cost between $75,000 and $125,000 a year for basic line maintenance and longer term, once repaired and operating, around $200,000 to $300,000 for annual maintenance of the line from Gisborne to Wairoa. The cost to repair the wash outs and clean up and repairs of culverts, drains and sleepers was estimated to be $6.5m.

Gisborne Rail Action Group chairwoman Nikki Searancke said the forum was well attended with more than 55 people registered and additional people attending in the afternoon, and ended with an agreement to form a steering group to discuss forming a consortium.

“The views of attendees was overwhelmingly open the Gisborne to Wairoa rail line. There was a very real enthusiasm and a determination to form a steering group.”

Three parties say fix rail

Source: The Gisborne Herald – November 3, 2016

NZ First, Labour, Maori Party cite growth, jobs, safer roads.

Leaders of two political parties — including the Government’s coalition partner — along with Labour’s shadow transport minister will be in Gisborne next week to speak about the benefits to East Coast Maori of reopening the Gisborne to Wairoa railway line.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox and Labour Party transport spokeswoman Sue Moroney will address a rail forum to discuss progress towards the repair and reopening of the Gisborne-Wairoa section of the line.

The forum will be on Monday at Te Tini o Porou Conference Centre, Kaiti from 9am to 5pm.

Although the Government has said it would not be economically viable to reopen the line, Ms Fox says she believes reopening the line to Gisborne to be “crucial” for the region’s economy.

“The Maori Party is an independent voice in Parliament and we do disagree with the National Party on many things. However where we can, we work alongside the Government to make gains for whanau. I am committed to supporting a stronger and healthier road and rail network on the East Coast. Since I came into Parliament in 2014, I’ve engaged with community groups and worked with the Minister of Transport to upgrade both road and rail across the East Coast.

“It’s great to see the Napier-Wairoa line reopening and, while we’ve made gains in upgrading our roads, I want to see similar commitment to our rail line north of Wairoa. There are significant volumes of goods and materials produced on the East Coast which, in turn, provide jobs for our whanau. In order to grow the local economy for our whanau, we need a strong and diverse infrastructure to get goods to market. Investment in key rail lines such as the Napier-Gisborne line north of Wairoa is crucial to ensuring viable economic growth.”

Expected increases in truck volumes over the next decade required significant funds to maintain road quality and road safety, Ms Fox said.

“I want to see safer roads and healthy communities on the East Coast, and rail provides that alternative option. Given the state of State Highway 2 and the impact continuous heavy trucking will have on this road, I am of the view that this — combined with the potential jobs growth to come out of utilising both rail and road transport for getting logs from forest to port — is crucial for the future development on the East Coast.”

The Napier-Gisborne line was mothballed at the end of 2012 after the line was badly damaged in the Beach Loop area by a storm earlier that year. KiwiRail and Napier Port intend to reopen the line between Napier and Wairoa next year. Speaking ahead of the meeting, Mr Peters told The Gisborne Herald that KiwiRail’s plan to re-open the Napier-Wairoa rail line showed the National Government’s desire to “run down rail” was wrong.

“KiwiRail has succumbed to pressure and with Napier Port will restore the line — but it’s a job half-done. Now KiwiRail must go to the next stage and reactivate the line between Wairoa and Eastland Port at Gisborne.”

It had been known for a long time that huge volumes of logs would have to be taken out of Wairoa and that if the rail lines were not in use, this would present major problems on East Coast roads, he said.

“Like all provincial roads, they are under strain from lack of funding. Washouts through flooding were just used as an excuse to mothball the Napier-Wairoa line and the Wairoa-Gisborne line. Work will now have to be done to upgrade the Napier-Wairoa line, which would not have been necessary had sanity prevailed and it had been kept in use.”

 

KiwiRail Must Also Re-Open Gisborne-Wairoa Line

Author:

Rt Hon Winston Peters

Date:

Thursday, October 6, 2016 – 14:15

KiwiRail’s plan to re-open the Napier-Wairoa rail line shows the National government’s desire to run down rail is wrong, says New Zealand First Leader and Northland Member of Parliament Rt Hon Winston Peters.

“KiwiRail has succumbed to pressure, and with Napier Port will restore the line but it’s a job half-done, now KiwiRail must go to the next stage and reactivate the line between Wairoa and Eastland Port at Gisborne.

“The government must make this achievable.

“It has been known for a long time that huge volumes of logs will have to be taken out of Wairoa and that if the rail lines were not in use, this would present major problems on East Coast roads. Like all provincial roads they are under strain from lack of funding.

“Washouts through flooding were just used as an excuse to mothball the Napier-Wairoa line and the Wairoa-Gisborne line. The closures are just more examples of the National Party perverting sound provincial economics.

“The very idea we can transport any cargo by road, in the volumes necessary, just shows how out of touch the National Government is.

“Work will now have to be done to upgrade the Napier-Wairoa line which would not have been necessary had sanity prevailed and it had been kept in use.

“The agreement to reactivate the line is still dependant on Napier Port approving KiwiRail’s predicted cost to restore the line.

“It’s the government’s blunder in allowing mothballing of the whole line and Transport Minister Simon Bridges should step in with the resources to re-open it,” says Mr Peters.

Wairoa to Napier rail on track after deal with Napier Port

(“Wairoa Star” – Thurs 6th Oct 2016)

Cost dependent, plus new log hub for Wairoa

 

The Wairoa to Napier rail line is back on track following a commercial agreement between KiwiRail and Napier Port.

A dedicated log service will run from Wairoa to Napier Port from the end of next year and subject to Napier Port approving KiwiRail’s updated forecast cost for restoring the line to service.

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council chairman Fenton Wilson understood the agreement between the two organisations was to be signed this morning.

Part of the operational arrangements is a log hub in Wairoa to store logs as they await transport to the port.

Mr Wilson said operational arrangements and details around the hub, including employment opportunities, are still to be confirmed.

“This is huge for our town, log volumes coming out of local forests plus anything off the roads has got to be a good thing.

The result is the end of a long series of discussions and I am thrilled we have got there in the end. I’ve been pushing to re-open the rail since the washout. We didn’t believe mothballing was the right course of action with the forestry that was about to come on stream.”

“While the regional council has championed this outcome for many years the final series of negotiations is a commercial arrangement between KiwiRail and Napier Port,” Mr Wilson said.

The Napier-Gisborne line was closed in March 2012 following a series of dropouts in the Wharerata’s after a heavy rain event.

The line was mothballed in December 2012.

KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy is pleased to see the return of commercial rail services in the region.

He said the re-opening is a boost to business growth in the region and KiwRail is delighted to be able to support date.

“We had always signalled the line could re-open in the future, as long as there was sufficient freight volume available to support rail operations and the necessary investment in infrastructure was made.”

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council interim chief executive Liz Lambert is delighted to see a rail freight option return to northern Hawke’s Bay.

“The community regularly gave us feedback supporting this line being reinstated. It makes perfect sense to see this arrangement sit commercially between Napier Port and KiwiRail.”

Napier Port CEO Garth Cowie is pleased to see the line return to operation. “Napier Port is a critical gateway for the central North Island and ensuring we have the right transport links in place is a crucial factor in moving East Coast export products to world markets.”

“The East Coast region is expecting a considerable increase in log exports from late next year, with significant volumes forecast to come through Eastland and Napier Port,” Mr Cowie said. “The increasing long term log volumes from Wairoa will stretch the capability within the wider region to transport logs in a reliable, efficient and environmentally friendly manner, and the reopening of the rail link will enhance transport options for our log exporters.”

The Wairoa log service will initially run over the weekend, with two services eachSaturday and Sunday. The service will complement the utilisation of the rail capacity which Napier Port has already committed to in the central North Island with its dedicated weekday log service from the Whanganui, Palmerston North and Woodville areas.

Forest Management NZ Ltd manage the Roger Dickie forest syndicates, which collectively have more than 11,000 hectares within the greater Wairoa area.

Forest Management and joint chief executive Steve Bell says his company has been in support of the Napier-Wairoa rail link reopening since its closure in 2012.

“With harvest volumes coming on stream, the rail link will provide Forest Management New Zealand with greater options while strengthening links direct to the port.”

-ends –

 

*Forest Management NZ told Radio NZ this morning, they plan to use Napier-Wairoa rail link indefinitely because of increasing large volume logs that will be ready for harvest in coming years commencing later next year.

 

Footnote:  The heavy rain event in Wharerata’s which caused slips and washouts occurred on 25th March 2012 resulting in mothballing of Wairoa-Gisborne rail link initially, while the Napier-Wairoa rail link was mothballed from February 2013 onwards after last freight train ran from Napier to Wairoa return on 4th December 2012.

Wharerata railway being secured

Gisborne Herald – Wed 29th June 2016

by David Stokes

Gisbornites who have been dismayed at the ongoing neglect and preventable deterioration of our iconic Wharerata rail section.

On Friday I spent the day in the company of two middle management KiwiRail staff as they inspected the line. With the help of this uncanny dry weather, they have completed the reopening of a dangerous blockage at Wharekakaho (the stream at the northern end of Beach Loop).  A lake had formed and posed a real risk of carrying away 80 metres of rail embankment.

More than this, they are in the process of removing a large volume of timber and silt that has accumulated while the water tunnel was blocked, and would otherwise form a new blockage. They have exposed the remnants of the protective cage at the water tunnel entrance and intend to repair it and reform another log trap up-stream. (This work is hugely significant as it has been a real worry in terms of getting our historic train back up to Beach Loop).

Due to budget constraint from above, this new work programme is restricted to the prevention of new damage – not the repair of older damage that has stabilised and appears unlikely to deteriorate further. They assessed other dangerous blockage situations in the region of the Kopuawhara monument which were immediately added to this current work programme, along with the appropriate repair of their inlet cage structures.

A good clearance of the watertables along Beach Loop has been done and similar work is intended south down the Kopuawhara Valley.

A commitment to more intensive regular monitoring appears to have surfaced from this but I got the impression that more intensive oversight of the activities of forestry companies and farmers by the two regional councils involved was thought to be solely lacking, and was a major concern for those staff in KiwiRail tasked with maintaining rail structures.

~David Stokes

KiwiRail works on slips and culverts that threaten line near Beach Loop

Gisborne Herald   Wed 29th June 2016

by Andrew Anton

A combination of slips, blocked culverts, heavy rain and forestry slash resulted in a lake forming at the Wharekakaho Stream at the northern end of Beach Loop on the Gisborne-Napier rail line last week. It threatened another blowout on the mothballed line but KiwiRail staff have now rectified the situation.

“We anticipate being there for another two to three weeks,” a KiwiRail statement said. “At present we are clearing a blocked culvert and have also undertaken drainage maintenance at points through this section.” “There are some slips which we will work our way through over the next two to three weeks, as well as clearing and cleaning of culverts. The causes of slips and culvert blockages range from rain events to slash and scrub run-off into the culverts.”

Gisborne resident David Stokes, who observed the work, said it was good news that the iconic Wharerata section had been savedfrom what was becoming a “dangerous” situation.  “A lake had formed and posed a real risk of carrying away 80 metres of rail embankment.”

The Napier-Gisborne line was mothballed in 2012 after the line was badly damaged in the Beach Loop area by a storm.  In 2014, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council set aside $5.46 million to potentially part-fund the resurrection of a freight service between Napier and Wairoa on the line.

KiwiRail is still working through matters surrounding a potential sale or lease agreement with Hawke’s Bay Regional Council.