A study of the transport and economic future of the East Coast during the next 30 years is planned, following a meeting involving Hawke's Bay and coast council leaders and Government ministers in Wellington yesterday.
The local leaders met Minister of Transport Gerry Brownlee, Economic Development minister Steven Joyce and Napier MP Chris Tremain, now the Minister of Local Government.
A statement afterwards said the Government and the mayors had agreed to work together to deliver a broad study of the regions' economic potential over the next 30 years and transport infrastructure requirements.
Les Probert said last night that with the railway line "mothballed" by KiwiRail, supported by Government, there are two issues - the long-term economic future and the "more immediate" issue of land access, now confined to what he calls a "precarious" State Highway 2.
The produce of the East Coast forms a significant part of the national economy, and it will become even more significant, he said.
"We are probably a major player in the economy, and the Government needs to take notice of what we say," he said.
Mr Tremain said plans for a strategic economic study were "good news".
But he said the mothballing of the railway was endorsed by the Ministers, and added: "It was made clear to mayors that while the Port of Gisborne remained a cheaper option for the export of logs from around the Gisborne area, compared to the use of rail to the Port of Napier, the rail line would remain uneconomic."
Hastings-based Tukituki MP Craig Foss said: "Much of the debate over the closure of the Napier to Gisborne rail line has focused on just the one mode of transport, without consideration of the economic contribution of road and shipping.
"At this point in time the Government is not supportive of subsidising an uneconomic transport mode when the economics for logs on the East Coast area are to truck them to the Port of Gisborne."