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.”