It might be another year before the Napier to Wairoa rail line is operational - despite early hopes it would have been full steam ahead by this month.

Last October Napier Port and KiwiRail sealed a deal to reopen the mothballed line for a dedicated log service from Wairoa to the port. At that time, it was aimed to begin this month.

Instead, the reopening of the line has been delayed, hoped to be operational by this time next year.

Hawke's Bay Regional Council transport committee chairman Alan Dick said that after "discussions with forestry owners and industry representatives it was agreed it would be next year before the volume of logs was high enough to make the line economically viable".


When asked how this delay would affect expected costings, Mr Dick said commercially sensitive negotiations were continuing with forestry companies in relation to freight charges.

"There also still needs to be discussions around the re-establishment costs of the line and underwriting the operating of the line."

The mayors at both ends of the line were disappointed about the delay.

"It just seems to be going on and on and on. I'd just like a decision made one way or the other and then we'd be able to get somewhere," Wairoa mayor Craig Little said.

"The problem is we haven't had a decision so it's a bit of a nuisance really."

Napier mayor Bill Dalton said any delay was disappointing, and the best thing any Government could do was improve the connection between the two hubs.

"Wairoa is an incredibly important part of Hawke's Bay. Some of the best tourism aspects that Hawke's Bay has are in the Wairoa [District]."

If it was decided it was uneconomic to reopen the line, the Government needed to embrace an alternative, he said, such as an upgrade of State Highway 2.

"But one way or another the Government has got to put money into connecting northern Hawke's Bay with the rest of Hawke's Bay."

A Napier Port spokeswoman said the timing of the rail line reopening would not affect the volume of log exports coming through Napier Port, "it simply means that they'll all be transported to the port via road".

With log exports rising, the port was forecast to exceed this year's record 1.6 million tonnes - with an anticipated 1.8 million tonnes next year.

A KiwiRail spokesperson said it was continuing to work with the regional council and the port to determine exact timings and costs, and project timelines were "fluid at this stage".

The council earmarked $5.4 million to facilitate the reopening of the line.

It had been expected Napier Port and KiwiRail would take commercial returns from "day one" of the line reopening, but the regional council was not expected to generate revenue until after the break-even volume was reached - expected to be in about 2020.

When the service begins, it is expected two trains will run on Saturdays and two on Sundays. Napier Port already has log-only weekday trains from Whanganui, Palmerston North and Woodville.

The Napier-Gisborne line was mothballed in 2012 after damage to the track north of Wairoa and declining revenues.