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.



HBRC and KiwiRail negotiating Napier-Wairoa rail

HBRC Media Release 29 April 2016

HBRC and KiwiRail negotiating Napier-Wairoa rail


Hawke’s Bay Regional Council is entering into contractual negotiations with KiwiRail to re-establish a Napier- Wairoa rail link.

HBRC has completed a feasibility study on a proposed log freight rail service.

Following a public excluded meeting on 20 April, the regional council decided to enter negotiations with KiwiRail for the rail company to operate a log freight service between Wairoa and Napier on behalf of HBRC.

HBRC will also be negotiating with customers who could benefit from a rail service through to Napier and the port. The funding of track maintenance would be the responsibility of the regional council.

“The Council has taken into consideration the large quantities of timber coming from forest harvesting in the Wairoa District over the next two decades,” said Chairman Fenton Wilson.

“We will be expecting a return on our investment over the life of the resumed service.”

The rail connection was mothballed in December 2012 following major washouts on the line, and the subsequent cost of repairs.  Following this, in 2014, HBRC allocated $5.46 million to potentially underwrite a freight service.

Firm rail commitment needed.

Nash Notes’ – Stuart Nash Labour MP Wairoa/Napier

from the Wairoa Star – Thurs 14th April 2016

I am an active supporter of re-establishing the Napier-Gisborne rail link, and have been ever since it washed out in 2012.

There are a number of reasons for my stance an this issue, but fundamentally I believe the East Coast needs a fully integrated transport infrastructure to maximise our region’s potential over the coming decades.

It’s not a case of road versus rail, but rather both operating together in order to meet different needs of the various users.

I envisage a significant increase in south-bound rail demand as, for example, processed timber and fruit products head south in shipping containers to the Port of Napier (the Port of Gisborne is not set-up for containerised shipments).

So the time is fast approaching when the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council either has to make a firm commitment to the Napier-Gisborne rail link and go hard to secure the rights to lease the tracks and find a credible operator with the appropriate rolling stock – or simply give it away in the knowledge the first major winter storm will probably wash out even more of the track, given that the significantly–reduced maintenance programme has failed to keep it in any sort of shape, and therefore renders the rail uneconomic to ever repair.

If the rail line is allowed to disappear into history my concern is companies that require a first-class rail network to transport goods to a port won’t even consider Gisborne, Wairoa or anywhere in close proximity to locate a value-added plant.

My other concern is there is a growing perception that the regional council has spent so much time, energy, money and resources on the Ruataniwha dam project that they have taken their eye off other key regional projects. I certainly hope this is wrong.

Let’s hope a workable solution is found that benefits everyone – but particularly our region.

Thar she blows

from the Gisborne Herald – Sat 14th Nov 2015

Wa165 is now central to attracting cruise ship visits.

The steam train carried excited young passengers and adults to Muriwai and back yesterday in a trial run

preparing for an influx of cruise ship visitors and other potential rail travellers from next week.

Another trip was made today, reserved for volunteers, sponsors and businesses that have helped to get

the train back on track. Firing up the historic locomotive again and taking her down the line was a special

moment for the skilled volunteer army who are continuing the work on Wa165 and her carriages begun by a

dedicated crew back in the 1980’s with the aim of creating something special.

Wa165 is now a central figure in our tourism profile, a key feature for attracting cruise ships visits. She is

pictured as it rumbled across the Waipaoa bridge during the tail end of the southerly weather yesterday.



Gisborne Herald” also reported today with resumption of cruise ship visits to Gisborne this Wednesday 18th,

will see nine “Golden Princess” ship visits, along with one “Sea Princess” and one “Marina” ship visit each, and

two visits by the smaller “Coral Discoverer” this summer season. Wa165 will operate two trips on those days.


Footnote:   Interestingly, Tv1 “Seven Sharp” programme last evening had a good news story about Wa165 steam

train and Gisborne-Muriwai section of railway line being back in operation by Gisborne City Vintage Railway.



Rail service viable and essential

from Hawke’s Bay Today – Tues 20th October 2015

by Alan Dick

“The immediate challenge however is how to handle the “wall of wood” from the Wairoa forest”

In your article “Nash talks up re-opening of rail link” (Monday, October 19), MP Craig Foss, as a determined opponent of rail,

is quoted: “The evidence was that the line was hardly being used before the washout.” He added: “Businesses were choosing not

to use the line and had been choosing not to for many years.”  He is wrong.

In fact, in the immediate period leading up to the washouts, three or more fully loaded trains were moving squash and other

products from Gisborne to Napier Port – and demand was such that double the number of trains could have been running except

that KiwiRail could not provide the required locos, wagons and drivers.

What had happened?  From 2010, all Hawke’s Bay and East Coast MP’s, with the exception of minister Foss, had been urging

businesses to use rail. Correctly sensing demand, KiwiRail spent $300,000 to lower the bed of three tunnels, to finally enable full

capacity 40ft high-cube containers to be carried on the line.

Then entrepreneurial Gisborne-based transport operator Steve Weatherell (running 80 trucks nationally) took the opportunity as

a freight forwarder to shift his customers’ product from road to rail.

For his customers, a smooth, damage-free ride for their sensitive product and direct movement of full containers from packhouse

to portside without repacking or double handling.

For Weatherell Transport, better service for their customers and avoiding a difficult road.  For Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne, dual

transport mode choice, reduced heavy traffic congestion on a difficult route, and consequently safety and environmental benefits.

What a tragedy when the washouts struck in March, 2012.  Avoidable with proper attention to culvert and drainage maintenance,

had the line remained intact KiwiRail would have now had a fully viable rail business with all the resultant environmental and economic

benefits for our region.

That takes us to today.

The Gisborne container freight market potential remains and, in fact, will grow with a wood processing hub to be established.

Gisborne Port is a specialised log exporter but is unlikely to ever attract export container ship calls.  Napier is the logical container

destination, being closer than Tauranga.

The immediate challenge, however, is how to handle the “wall of wood” from the Wairoa forest harvests, which will ramp up

dramatically over the next few years. Not including logs, which will continue to move by road to processors like Pan Pac, Wairoa

export log harvests will move from 323,000 tonnes next year to a million tonnes and more from 2020.

Forest managers believe that conservatively half of that volume can, and should, move by rail from a log hub at Wairoa to

Napier Port.  there will still be plenty of work for truckers, moving logs on short trips from the harvest sites to the log hub and

carrying extra volumes direct to the port.

There is a viable business for a rail operator on the East Coast line, based initially just on Wairoa logs alone but with

heritage steam tourism and Gisborne container potential. KiwiRail have at least two such proposals on their desk.

And the worst case outcome?  KiwiRail rejects the rail freight proposals in favour of a lease to cycle or golf cart tourism promoters.

The then consequence of State Highway 2 having to handle quadrupled log volumes will be heavy traffic congestion from a road

transport industry with insufficient capacity to cope, the road being wrecked, tragic deaths and injuries from accidents, and game-

-changing opportunity for the economic and social development of northern Hawke’s Bay lost forever. It can’t be allowed to happen.


* Alan Dick is a Hawke’s Bay regional councillor, former Napier mayor and is chairman of the Hawke’s Bay regional transport committee.


Nash talks up reopening of rail link

Original article From Hawke’s Bay Today 

Mon 19th Oct 2015

by Sophie Price

Napier MP Stuart Nash is keeping the possibility of the Napier-Gisborne rail reopening on track, having recently had talks

with KiwiRail.  He used the time to argue why the link was important to the region, encouraging KiwiRail to explore all options.

“KiwiRail listened,” he said.  “What they will do is they will look at the facts and they will make a decision that they feel is

best for their organisation, for the country and for the region.”

The link is currently up for debate with the transport SOE still considering tenders from tourism or freight rail operators

interested in running services on the line.

A spokesman for KiwiRail said it was not considering resuming services on that part of the network.

“However, we are still working through the evaluation process in regards (to) the tender (process) and will make an

announcement in due course.”

Napier-Gisborne Railway Ltd director Ian Welch said while he could see the line opening up in the future, current Government

policy appeared not to favour reopening.

NGRL was formed some time ago to facilitate the reopening of the Napier-to-Wairoa rail line, then eventually the Wairoa-to-

-Gisborne section.

Mr Welch said the section of the line between Napier and Wairoa had suffered the least damage and could be reopened

with little capital required.

“Rail is probably the most efficient way of moving the northern forest logs to port.  Also it lessens the number of trucks

and potential road fatalities.”

Tukituki MP Craig Foss said the evidence was that the line was hardly being used before the washout.

“Businesses were choosing not to use the line, and had been choosing not to do so for many years,” he said.

“I would be very concerned if the people of Hawke’s Bay were exposed to this as both taxpayers and ratepayers.”

One body that has put a tender in to provide a service on the Napier-Gisborne line is the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council (HBRC).

Last year the council set aside $5.46 million to potentially part-fund the resurrection of a freight service on the line.”

“HBRC submitted an alternative proposal, not a compliant tender, involving a potential contract between HBRIC (Hawke’s Bay

Regional Investment Company) and/or Napier Port and KiwiRail,” said Liz Lambert, HBRC interim chief executive.

“To date no response has been received from KiwiRail.”

MP says we need rail

Gisborne Herald   Mon 5th Oct 2015

by Andrew Ashton

Fears have been expressed that a plan to create a $7.4 million wood processing “cluster” to boost economic development here could be stifled if the Gisborne-Napier railway line is not re-opened in the next five years.

Eastland Community Trust last month approved the investment to build a wood-processing cluster and a centre of excellence on the former Prime Sawmill site last month – but Napier MP Stuart Nash told the ‘Gisborne Herald’ a “total transport solution” including both rail and roads would be needed to ensure the plan lived up to its potential.

“I have advocated hard for the Napier-Gisborne rail ink to be restored. For me economic development of the East Coast is dependent upon first-class transport infrastructure, of that there is no doubt.”

“If we are to attract a world-scale wood-processing plant, then it’s an absolute given that it needs first-world infrastructure.”

“I’m dealing with a group who are working with the Gisborne economic development unit on a mill that is currently mothballed

but is about to be reopened. I was talking to one of the guys driving it and he said to me “you have to push harder for this to be


Mr Nash said if a workable case could be put to KiwiRail, then the line could become a trial model for the rest of New Zealand.

While the economic impact of the loss of the line has “possibly been minimal” to date, it could become “significant” over the next three to five years.

“What we are going to have to do up and down the East Coast is in a pro-active way seek finance or partners to build these plants. The longer this is left, the more expensive it is going to be to get the whole thing up and running again. We have a window of opportunity that is still open to us but if we leave it for too long, that window is going to close.”

“I would hate to see that happen – I think it would be really bad thing for the East Coast.”

Mr Nash’s comments come just a week after Local Government New Zealand released its Mobilising the Regions study, which examined the impact of transport on regional economic development.

The report highlighted the mothballing of the Napier-Gisborne rail link as an example of how a transport investment decision might have effected economic prospects in the Gisborne region. While a Government economic potential study concluded the effect of closing the line would be small, LGNZ’s report said an independent consultant’s report found the line could be economically viable and identified “a range” of possible economic and social benefits to continuing the line.

“The closure of the Napier-Gisborne rail link provides a useful example of how the limitations of the investment decision-making process for rail might have effected regional impacts,” the report said.

It pointed out that in recent documents released from the 2015 budget on the future of KiwiRail, the Treasury recommended closure or downsizing of the rail network based on fiscal priorities and commercial viability.

“This recommendation further highlights the point made in this report, that the implications of transport linkages are not fully understood if they are based on commercial considerations alone.”

“Without a full economic analysis, the public good benefits of rail will not be taken into account.”

ECT believes the creation of a wood-processing cluster has the potential to create 120 jobs onsite, 300 jobs offsite and inject $6.7 million into the local economy within three years.

It’s not the end of the line for rail link, says Council

(“Hawke’s Bay Today” – Thurs 23rd April 2015)

by Simon Hendery


Hawke’s Bay Regional Council says it hasn’t given up on plans for a rail-based log freighting operation between Wairoa and Napier.  It comes despite KiwiRail closing the door on discussions last month.

The state-owned company, which owns the mothballed Napier-Gisborne line, declined a request from the council for an extension of time – beyond March 1 – to develop a business case based on leasing the line.

Last year the council set aside $5.46 million to potentially part-fund the resurrection of a freight service on the line.

It commissioned a study which concluded there was sufficient demand from forest owners wanting to ship logs from Wairoa to Napier Port to make the project viable.

However, more time was needed to firm up commercial interest and compete a detailed business case.

But last month KiwiRail said it was not prepared to extend the deadline given there were still a “significant number of fundamental outstanding issues yet to be resolved”.

Regional council chief executive Liz Lambert said yesterday the two organisations were still talking with a view to finding a mutually acceptable solution.  “We haven’t given up hope of being able to look for a solution yet,” she told a meeting of the council’s corporate and strategic committee.

Meanwhile, Labour MP Stuart Nash said this week the council lease proposal was “a fantastic idea” because the east coast needed “first world infrastructure” including a decent rail link to drive economic development.

“If we haven’t got the infrastructure, nobody is going to invest,” he told a Grey Power meeting in Taradale on Tuesday.

“Peter Reidy, the CEO of KiwiRail, has been a mate of mine for a long time – way before politics.  I’ve been having a couple of conversations with him and trying to figure out what is going on here,” Mr Nash said.

“I can’t say we’ll get there in the end but I’m actually really confident we will.”

The Government has dismissed the council’s plans, saying there is no evidence in support the claim the rail link could be economically viable.