(“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.”
*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.