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Logs to an ‘inland port’

GISBORNE man Chris Shaw is asking Gisborne District Council to support a feasibility study on a concept that would establish an “inland port” and take logging trucks out of the city.

Instead of every log truck driving through the city, they would go to a new inland port at Matawhero operated by Eastland Port.

Money from the Provincial Growth Fund could be used to upgrade Tauwhareparae Road through the Waimata Valley to the new inland port, with all logs from the East Coast travelling that route.

He believes this would future-proof Eastland Port’s business, as the aging and inefficient shipping that visits the tidal surge-affected harbour are cast into obsolescence and replaced by larger, more efficient and less environmentally-damaging vessels.

Napier port was proposing a ?$350 million upgrade and would be looking for business.

Mr Shaw believes the harbour basin is an under-appreciated and under-utilised jewel, with huge potential for many different groups of users — local and tourist. That could include an international hotel and intensive housing.

He told the committee he was not anti-log trucks or anti-port.

He had talked to a lot of people about his proposal. His intention was to go to the Eastland Community Trust because they were the owners of the port.

He wanted to go to them with support and had talked to a lot of businesspeople.

His proposal would be a lot cheaper than the $80 million the port intended to spend on an upgrade to be able to berth two large ships.

At present, the port made a profit of about $5 million a year so it would take a long time to recover that investment. The port also required regular maintenance.

An inland port would be cheaper to run. Rail would be supplied by the Government. It would be a smart strategic move.

He had spoken to a kiwifruit grower who said Zespri had told him growers would have to factor in the cost of trucking to Tauranga, because the ships using the port were too small.

His proposal would not cost truck drivers their jobs.

“I am sure the truck drivers themselves take absolutely no pleasure in driving through the middle of our city,” he said.

“They, too, have children and grandchildren at the various schools they drive past every day.”

The argument about the cost of maintaining the railway line “just does not wash”. It was built with picks and shovels and could be maintained with the present superior technology.

Mr Shaw said he was aware that central Government had granted $450,000 for a feasibility study on the viability of the rail line.

He told Meredith Akuhata-Brown — who told him he had “made her day”— that the biggest barrier to his proposal was that the port was a cash-cow.

See also editorial page 10