LEADERS in Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay say enough is enough.
Hawke’s Bay Regional Transport Committee, acting Gisborne Mayor Nona Aston and other industry leaders want the future of the hamstrung Gisborne to Napier rail line urgently resolved.
Gisborne exporters cannot move forward with rail transportation plans only weeks out from planting for this season, and other industry is crippled by the Governments delay with its decision.
The line has been closed since March when storms caused severe damage, which is expected to cost close to $4 million to repair.
“We need that decision,” says Mrs Aston.
“Industry and transport people here need to be able to look at their options.”
On TVNZ’s Q+A programme on Sunday, KiwiRail’s chief executive Jim Quinn said the decision on the future of the regional line to Gisborne would be made on a commercial basis.
Mrs Aston said the Government and KiwiRail needed to remember the provinces.
“It’s not all city, city, city.”
“We have such a large primary industry here with all our agriculture and horticulture. We are feeding the rest of New Zealand and that is becoming even more important as the years go on and the cities evolve.”
The district had a very vulnerable transportation infrastructure already, she said.
“Why are they doing this to the provinces? It is terrible to be kept hanging and hanging. It’s not fair on anyone to leave us in the dark.”
She also felt for the Wa165 vintage rail people.
“It is a great tourist attraction. It would be such a shame to lose that.
“Give us a chance,” she said.
Eastland Group chief executive Matt Todd said the port could not move forward with coastal shipping plans without a decision on the future of the rail.
“We have been doing a lot of work on coastal shipping as a back-up to rail.
“It can be delivered cost-effectively and cheaper than road for non-time-critical product.
“The irony is we need certainty over rail in order to seriously consider making the investment required to support coastal shipping.”
However, if a decision was made not to fix and open the rail, then coastal shipping service would be able to be developed to meet most customers needs.
The Hawke’s Bay Regional Transport Committee has raised serious concerns with the Minister of Transport over the time it is taking to make a decision on the future of the East Coast rail line.
Earlier this year, the Regional Transport Committee, along with Hawke’s Bay’s five councils and several other organisations, wrote to Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee expressing their strong support for retention of the line. They are still waiting for a decision.
In a letter this month to Mr Brownlee, Regional Transport Committee chairman Alan Dick said the matter needed to be urgently resolved to allow time for repairs before summer when freight demand peaks.
“In the unfortunate event of support not proceeding, freight- dependent businesses in Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay need time to plan alternative transport options.
“This relatively isolated part of New Zealand is an engine room of our primary industry-dominated national economy and so must retain a strategically effective transportation system.”