One silver lining to come out of New Zealand's closed borders may be the revitalisation of domestic rail travel.
Horizons Regional Council Ruapehu representative Weston Kirton certainly hopes so as he has been lobbying the Government to reinstate a passenger service at Taumarunui since his election in October last year.
Along with the many Covid-19-related challenges Ruapehu faces, Kirton sees the potential for positive change.
Taumarunui, along with Marton and 10 other stops on the main trunk line, was dropped from the schedule in 2012 and Kirton said the time is right to reinstate them.
"At a stroke, our international tourism sector was flattened by our border closure; however, contained within that dark cloud is the glimmer of a public transport silver lining," he said.
"KiwiRail has long maintained that the viability of our main trunk service, the Northern Explorer, hinges on it being a bespoke service for tourists.
"Now that market no longer exists it is time for KiwiRail to finally bring back the service as part of the new passenger transport network the Government is proposing."
In February this year, Kirton met with Te Tai Hauāuru MP Adrian Rurawhe and Rangitīkei MP Ian McKelvie to present a petition with more than 3000 signatures to the House of Representatives at Parliament.
"I was very warmly welcomed by Labour list MP and Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard.
"He lived in Taumarunui and taught at the high school here in his younger days so he has a personal fondness for the place."
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Kirton said he is heartened by Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters' recent statement that rail should be a critical part of New Zealand's integrated transport network.
Peters made the statement in his capacity as State Owned Enterprises Minister after the 2020 Budget announcements on May 14.
"Backing up that statement was the announcement of a $1.2 billion investment in rail and Transport Minister Phil Twyford's references to the Government's bold vision for a 21st-century rail network as outlined in the draft New Zealand Rail Plan," Kirton said.
"It is now inconceivable that our main trunk line doesn't stop at all the destinations between Auckland and Wellington."
Kirton said rural communities up and down the country have few transport options other than private cars or buses for travelling long distances.
"If there was a regional focus on train services the country would be a lot better off in reaching carbon emissions targets," he said.
"Getting people thinking about public transport and rail, in particular, would address many environmental concerns and society would benefit enormously both in the short term and, more importantly, long term."
Kirton has been invited by the Government's Transport and Infrastructure Committee to send a written submission elaborating on the matters raised in his petition by June 22 and to give an oral submission on June 25.
"I believe now is the time to start the rail transport conversation," he said.
"It is short-sighted to believe our main trunk rail system is anything but a national asset for all to use including smaller towns such as Taumarunui."
Kirton said it is time for the Government to make good on its election promise about rebuilding rail for passenger and freight.