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Trust should review position, consider Eastland Rail Services


When the chairman of Eastland Community Trust Paul Reynolds was asked at the 2019 AGM whether they supported restoration of the Gisborne-Napier railway, his answer was that they had already supported it by contributing to the cost of the BERL feasibility study. He omitted to say that the BERL recommendations had been ignored (perhaps they were hoping for a different outcome?) But, no, according to The Gisborne Herald report of the meeting, when asked if ECT and Eastland Port were opposed to re-establishing the Gisborne-Wairoa rail line, Mr Reynolds was unequivocal in saying “no”, despite continuing rumours to the contrary.

It has been suggested that rail could take a substantial amount of business away from the port, which is already losing business due to its inability to service demand because of sea conditions and wharf availability.

The port's response is to plan for a wharf extension, at a cost of around $100m, but this overlooks the fact that if one ship cannot berth due to sea conditions, then neither can two. They may also be overlooking the potential loss of business as China progresses towards 100 percent self-sufficiency in timber by 2035 (only 14 years to go!) They may not need that second log-ship berth in seven years' time!

It seems to me that there is another option.

Trust Tairawhiti now has a new chairman and two new board members; perhaps they should review their position with regard to viability of port operations, and maybe consider whether some diversification within Eastland Group might be envisaged.

How about Eastland Rail Services? For a third of the cost of a second berth, they could have an alternative mode of transport out of Gisborne not only for logs but containers too. And who knows, the sympathetic Government might be persuaded to come up with most of that money anyway.

Peter Wooding

  1. Richard says:

    Indeed, but the economic value of passenger services should not be left out of any debate, review or research paper regarding rail in and out of the East Cape. The omission of which was a major error in the BERL study and it always has been since the washouts.

    Perhaps if the economic and social contribution passenger services will make would have tipped the balance of any previous paper further in favour of reopening the line.

  2. Peter Wooding says:

    I could have been mistaken when I thought I heard Dr Reynolds say that ECT had contributed to the cost of the BERL rail feasibility report. I have been reminded that, although the report was commissioned by Tairāwhiti Rail Limited and Activate Tairāwhiti, it was the Provincial Growth Fund that provided the $600k funding.

    Peter Wooding