A Northland sawmill owner says if the Government is not interested in investing funds into a "shrinking" rail network in the region, it should divert more money into roads because the number of logging trucks will only increase in future.
Adrian Broughton, co-owner of Waipapa Pine, said an absence of shipping and rail would put more pressure on roads that were currently being "tinkered" with rather than improved.
The businessman was one of hundreds who attended a public meeting organised by Grow Northland Rail at Forum North last week.
The meeting came after KiwiRail announced Northland's sole surviving railway line was to be mothballed north of Kauri because it was no longer viable.
Mr Broughton's company supplies 350 tonnes of wood chips and sawn timber to national and international markets daily, the number expected to increase to 500 tonnes by the end of this year.
Wood chips are transported by truck to Port Marsden while a small amount of timber is trucked to Auckland and Tauranga to be shipped out.
Mr Broughton said carrying wood chips by rail to Marsden Point would be an option for his company if the rail link went that far.
"Ultimately I am concerned about a loss of regional capability. We need to have good infrastructure and rail infrastructure is shrinking and I challenge anyone whether roading infrastructure is really improving or are they just tinkering with it."
"If roads are going to be Northland's infrastructure of choice, then it needs to be funded with that focus."
Mr Broughton said the rot started 10 years ago when the deep water port was moved to Marsden without any requirement for a rail link.
Former Far North mayor Wayne Brown told the forum there was enough money in the Government coffers for rail if the state highway improvement on the north side of the Brynderwyns was anything to go by.
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said his party would reinvigorate rail freight and lines and build a link to Northport to handle Auckland freight. "The neglect of rail around New Zealand has become a national disgrace. We must restore such state assets and stimulate the economy in the regions."
Forum organisers are working on a petition to be submitted to the Government and plans are under way to host another forum in Auckland with the Super City's mayoral candidates.