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Urgent need for transport system study

A SUGGESTION that the region’s logs could be transported to Napier by rail was described as daft at a meeting of the regional transport committee this week — but there was strong agreement a comprehensive study of the transport system is urgently needed.

Eastland Group port general manager Andrew Gaddum told the committee the port was essential to the forest industry and the district economy.

Committee member Graeme Thomson asked him if he thought a suggestion to wind down the port and send the logs to Napier was daft and unhelpful.

“Yes,” he said.

“We need to get on with a comprehensive study for this region.”

He had heard a lot of chatter and this group needed to take hold of the conversation, he said.

Chairman Bill Burdett asked who would take the initiative.

District Council lifelines director David Wilson said staff had been working on this in the background.

A significant amount of work had been done to identify the roads where a fix was needed. This was part of the application for funding to the provincial growth fund.

They had been working to ensure the necessary consultants were available.

The next stage would be to have a community-led approach, involving all stakeholders, to identify the roads to market through the city and out to Dunstan Road.

They needed to identify the routes that were safe, resilient and provided the best access to market.

It was something that needed to start in the new year.

Provincial growth fund money was allocated for years two and three of the 10-year long-term plan.

Mr Gaddum said everything at the port depended on the one logging berth.

“If we don’t have that we don’t have a port.”

There would be no inner harbour, no fishing port where you could sit and drink a latte.

Fear of 'unwinding' Gisborne to the '90s Eastland Community Trust would not be able to maintain it because they would not have the income needed.

“I guess what frustrates me — obviously I am completely biased — is that when I look at Tauranga and Napier, they are proud of what the port brings into the economy.

“All we seem to do here is to factionalise about the port and what it does and doesn’t do.

“I guess mainly that is because we are a logging port and that probably does not help.”

He guaranteed that in two or three years, boxes of apples and kiwifruit would be going out through the port. Zespri had told them Tauranga was getting too congested and they wanted the port to take the Gisborne volume as well as from Eastern Bay of Plenty.

“I guess what frustrates me is that having lived here all my life and seen the freezing works get pulled down, Watties get pulled down and how backward this town was in the mid-90s compared to where it is now — yes we have got some challenges.”

But the conversation he was hearing would unwind all that growth and put the district back in the ’90s.

If they followed the inland port concept and exported 4.5 million tonnes of product down to Hawkes Bay, and the railway line broke down, as it had every 10 years and would again, then what would happen?

They had been talking about opening the Wairoa-Napier section in October. That had now been put back to May.

In a carbon economy, shipping was going to be more important. The less distance you moved to market, the better placed you would be.

Meredith Akuhata-Brown said many ratepayers were challenged by this huge industry.

“Every time someone is killed in a road vehicle accident involving a logging truck, it sends another ripple through the community.”

There were people in the region who were not seeing the economic benefits from the industry.

“We have to start asking about the social, mental, emotional and all other aspects of this industry.

“Everyone knows I am pro-rail, but I am not pro-rail just for the sake of it.

“We need to be looking at options to meet the challenges we have,” she said.

See also web poll

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