Gisborne is an early winner from the Government's $1 billion-a-year Provincial Growth Fund, with $4.2 million announced for several projects.

But many were surprised the rail line to Napier was not mentioned at the fund launch in Gisborne, where $5million was announced for the rail line from Napier to Wairoa, about half-way to Gisborne.

Funding for the final leg has been hindered by a lack of unity. When asked about Gisborne rail Regional Economic Development Minister, Shane Jones said there were "mixed signals here amongst various leader in Gisborne".

"We're not writing Gisborne rail out of the script but I wouldn't be honest if I didn't say today that I have not been presented with that case," he said.


"There's political will to back rail, but there's also an acknowledgement that ports and coastal shipping is equally as important."

While Gisborne mayor Meng Foon says his council's position is pro rail, he is enthusiastic about alternatives.

He says logging truck traffic to Gisborne Port has increased tenfold since 2010 so an improved road network is first priority.

Some fear a rail line south would see Gisborne logs shipped from Napier Port, impacting Gisborne Port which is about to apply for resource consent for a second log berth.

"We are hopeful of a blue highway of coastal shipping, knitting us with Tauranga, Hawke's Bay and all the other ports around the eastern seaboard, and so I think that would be the best alternative to rail, if rail doesn't happen," Mr Foon said.

He has plans for the rail corridor, inspired by a trip to the Otago Rail Trail, which would also benefit communities in the neighbouring Wairoa District.

"I have written to the minister and he quite likes the plan of the rail trail, should they not fix the rail."

The Mayor's acceptance of rail alternatives has drawn criticism. Nikki Searancke of Gisborne Rail Action Group said Mr Foon was entitled to his view.

"Does he hold the mandate for us as a district?" she said. "I don't believe he does."

"I believe his council has, in the recent past from 2014, put a resolution on their books that, in fact, they want the government to restore the rail. I am hoping that the Minister, with the launch of the Growth Fund, will receive all our submissions."

"We have one before him currently. That submission is very clear about the wall of wood they talk about. It is also very clear about the 122,000 tonnes of other produce that has to leave this district. It can't all leave on a truck."

Gisborne City Vintage Railway currently uses part of the rail line for tourist trips and pays for the line's upkeep.

There is also a proposal before KiwiRail for a company to take logs from processing plants to Gisborne Port by rail which would remove logging trucks from Gisborne's CBD.

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