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Minister wants to see logs moved by rail not trucks

Opinion Piece

The visit to Wairoa this week by Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones was the first by a senior Cabinet Minister to involve formal meetings with local leaders in more than five years, the Wairoa Star reported yesterday.

He urged Wairoa, and Gisborne later on Wednesday, to get regional development proposals to the Government as soon as possible. He pushed mass tree planting, in partnership with communities and local government — 1 billion trees nationwide by 2030, to help meet climate change responsibilities. And he promoted rail, and getting the “wall of wood” on to rail.

The Star quoted a comment to him from Wairoa Mayor Craig Little earlier in the day that transporting a log by truck cost $8, and by rail $24 because of double-handling.

Mr Jones said his party New Zealand First had campaigned to recapitalise rail and he had had “a gutsful” of seeing logging trucks travelling the roads in Northland.

There were associated costs in road maintenance which were not factored in with the huge increase in logging trucks.

“The taxpayer owns the roads and the rail. Where do they want to see the logs go — by road or rail?”

Speaking at a mayoral reception, he said: “I have been warned to not use the word forestry in the wrong way and I have seen it go wrong in Dargaville when a lot of people moved away when forestry came to the area. If you have an aspiration to turn marginal land into forestry, we are going to do it in partnership with existing industry. Bring these proposals up ASAP.”

A spokeswoman for Mr Jones said critical infrastructure such as provincial roading improvements, rail and maritime facilities and sector-led projects such as tourism, aquaculture and forestry were among the type of capital investments the Government was looking to make in the regions.

“Work is being undertaken to determine the best framework for delivering the $1 billion-a-year Provincial Growth Fund. Projects will have to meet certain eligibility criteria such as the creation of jobs, sustainable economic development and enhanced social inclusion.”