(“Hawke’s Bay Today” – Fri 27th February 2015)
By Simon Hendery email@example.com
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.