Labour, Greens pledge to reinstate Gisborne rail line

By Phillipa Webb of the Gisborne Herald

The Napier-Gisborne rail line. Photo / Supplied
The Napier-Gisborne rail line. Photo / Supplied

Labour and the Greens vowed at a public meeting in Gisborne last night that they would reinstate the Gisborne to Napier railway line if they won the 2014 election.

East Coast National MP Anne Tolley's absence from the meeting about the mothballed line was noted, with most of about 100 meeting-goers giving her a vote of no confidence.

KiwiRail chief executive Jim Quinn offered no hope for the line and said the ongoing costs of repair and maintenance meant it would not be reopened.

The meeting was held to discuss the release of the recent Berl report - an independent economic analysis of the KiwiRail report that led to a decision to close the line in November.

Berl said there were "serious inconsistencies" in the KiwiRail report and there was a need for a comprehensive cost:benefit analysis of the line - a process that could cost around $500,000 and take up to 12 months.

Gisborne District Mayor Meng Foon said the meeting was an opportunity to gain feedback from the region to take to Minister of Transport Gerry Brownlee when they met to discuss the future of the line.

No date for a meeting has been set.

John McLean, from Roger Dickie Forests and the Rail Action Group, questioned the need to close the line from Wairoa to Napier when there were opportunities for forestry in that area to use the line.

Forestry investor Roger Dickie said of the 18 million tonnes of logs they hoped to produce in the next 10-15 years, he saw potential to send 7.5 million tonnes of that south by rail.

Richard Burke from crop grower LeaderBrand said they were not given enough time to see how they could grow the use of the line before it was mothballed.

Labour list MP Moana Mackey said the line had to be reinstated now for a cost of $4 million because that was the cheapest it would ever be.

Rail advocates needed to lobby government politicians to "keep the pressure on", she said.

Mr Foon said he appreciated Mr Quinn for "fronting up" to tough questions but at the end of the day Gisborne needed the line.

"We deserve good schools, good hospitals, good roads and good rail."

KiwiRail have been looking to mothball the Gisborne to Napier line for the past decade, saying it is unprofitable.

In March a storm swept through the Whareratas in the Beach Loop area and huge slips, one 100 metres by 100 metres, closed the line.

KiwiRail estimated the line would cost $4.3 million to fix but there was $30m-worth of other maintenance required on the line.

In October the Government finally made its decision to shut the line.

This was quickly followed by a fundraising drive to raise about $15,000 required for an independent economic analysis on the KiwiRail report that closed the line.

This report released last week highlighted inconsistencies and flaws, refuted by KiwiRail.

- The Gisborne Herald

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