Date for meeting with Brownlee to be set soon

The mayors and chairmen of Hawke's Bay and Gisborne councils expect to hear next week when they will be able to meet with the Minister of Transport Gerry Brownlee to push their case to keep the Gisborne to Napier rail line open.

Hawke's Bay Regional Transport Committee chairman Alan Dick said he was "pretty confident" the meeting would take place.

"The intention is that we and a group of senior businesspeople will talk to minister Brownlee and the Minister for Economic Development Steven Joyce to really state our case that Hawke's Bay and Gisborne are highly export-dependent. We need the transport options to enable prosperity and to achieve the Government's goal of increasing exports.

"We want to reiterate that Hawke's Bay and Gisborne, representing some 200,000 people, has a future which is predicated by having the right transport options."

Mr Dick said the rail line was well on the way to proving its viability before a section of track washed out between Wairoa and Gisborne. It would cost around $4 million to repair.

The mayors and business leaders would ask the ministers to assist KiwiRail to repair the Gisborne to Napier line by giving the state-owned enterprise some extra working capital.

"And then commit to picking up all those offers of trade that are there," Mr Dick said, referring to a list of seven businesses and organisations that put their names down and wrote statements to support the viability of the network.

"That is really impressive and KiwiRail just can't make a sensible argument against major credible firms like these ones."

Mr Dick said he was disappointed at KiwiRail's response to the BERL review, which studied the decision to close the Napier to Gisborne line.

"I think there is some real attitude developing and that's a shame because this issue is not going away. It is serious and concerns the businesses and communities right through Hawke's Bay up to the East Coast."BERL said in a statement last night that the only response to its review had come from KiwiRail. "The decision is clearly one involving national and regional interests, so we look forward to seeing the Government's response."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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