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Horses and carts good in their day

Opinion Piece

One cannot help but wonder where some of the opinions on this page actually come from. We have the only almost all-weather port between Tauranga and Napier. Almost all-weather applies to most ports in the world to some degree, as the demise of the Wahine will testify.

This port was created from an almost non-existent river bar crossing to an almost all-weather port, although the original idea was to ship local produce around the coast to the rest of New Zealand; this was doomed to failure as most of the local ports in the country are only accessible over treacherous river bars.

However, it certainly justified its existence, as many a fisherman who worked from Gisborne will testify.

Not so long ago Gisborne had the second highest landings of fish in the country. The scows have disappeared, replaced by a very inefficient railway operating on tracks hung off the side of very slippery slopes.

Face it, the geology of the East Coast is not conducive to this type of transport.

The railway has in turn been replaced by a very modern, efficient fleet of trucks. There is good coverage of this at Truck Files — A New Zealand Story, Prime (primetv.co.nz).

However, the Gisborne port is still in service because there are goods we produce, people internationally who wish to buy those goods, and ships that will come here to carry the freight to destinations where the ships can unload the said freight.

To upgrade our old, successful port seems to make good sense. It has already proved its worth.

To use money that could update the port, trying to prove that rail is viable — steel wheels, on steel tracks, on soft ground and likely to slide down the hills — is certainly not how I would like to see my hard-earned taxes spent.

We have a Government that has justified hanging $43.6 billion extra debt around our necks, by informing us that it could have been $48bn! Meaning $43.6bn is not a lot but $4.4bn is really significant!!

Certainly the benefit the community will get from some of this spend-up is very questionable, but adding to it will not make the repayment of the debts, we — yes, we and the future citizens of our fair country — have to repay any easier.

My suggestion is that if you really want to play trains buy a Hornby or similar and play with it to your heart’s content.

As I watch the trucks and logs passing my door, I actually have some hope the jobs and revenue that our forests are creating will go some way to help repaying the debt our wellbeing society is creating. How efficiently we can transport this freight to its end user will surely influence the benefits our community and the people of New Zealand will receive.

Phil Newdick

  1. Richard says:

    The Shipping News followed by Terrific Trucking – now showing on PrimeTV with sound bites regurgitated in print elsewhere. Where inevitably rationality and substance are victims.

    In reality the port serves and profits the few. Is it not reasonable therefore that the coterie who benefit the most should in fairness fund any upgrade or expansion to that exclusive facility.

    Heavy road haulage is not the most efficient or environmentally sound or safe form of transportation regardless of the produce it is hauling. PN you cannot compare short haul logging operations to inter-regional railway traffic be it freight or passenger services. These are two different logistics.

    Yes the railway to Gisborne had become inefficient but the evidence as to why that became so is known and out there for all to digest. In summary, historically successive government policies dating back to the late 1950’s driven by a predatory road transport lobby are to blame. Furthermore it has not helped matters that during the same period each appointed railway board and subsequent owner lacked the entrepreneurial vision to develop appropriate customer focussed counter measures. And this continues to this day.

    There are countries around the globe that have lower GDP’s and invest more in their freight & passenger railways than NZ. They have not done that out of charitable philanthropy but as an investment in the future of their nation’s wellbeing and competitiveness. The fact is right now (and has been for decades) Aotearoa is a third world rail nation.

    Imagine if the same lack of investment in the railway over the past 70 years was equally applied to the then pathetic nationwide road network. Your so called “efficient trucks” would not get any further than 10 miles out of Gisborne before breaking their axles.

    For the railway the geology is not the problem. It is the lack of investment in maintenance and track engineering, in modern rolling stock and motive power both freight and passenger disciplines. Plus track side best practice in freight handling is woefully thin in the sidings. And where’s the welcoming comfortable stations for folk to use or modern trains to ride on with competitive fare structures outside of the metropolitan areas. Gisborne has recently spent millions on a new air terminal but not a cent on its railway station.

    So let’s have an adult transport investment debate not a frivolous one devoid of wisdom, and, one without disingenuous references to child’s toys.