Another  symbolic sleeper has been laid  for  a Marsden Pt rail link,  officials clearing the way for  a rail corridor to be designated - but  no money has  been set aside for the line.
A panel of commissioners has recommended  national rail operator KiwiRail be allowed to  designate the  land it would use for a proposed multimillion-dollar rail link from Oakleigh, near Whangarei, to Marsden Pt. Although KiwiRail has yet to  decide when the proposed 20-kilometre-long link might be built, the state-owned enterprise has been seeking a legal "notice of requirement" for the proposed corridor. That would effectively protect the route from
other  development or uses that would be incompatible with a railway line.
KiwiRail's application to the Northland Regional and Whangarei District Councils for the consents needed to construct, operate and maintain the proposed rail link was heard in Whangarei  last month.
The application was heard by a  panel comprising three independent commissioners - Rob van Voorthuysen, Alan Watson and Greg Shaw - and, in a limited role, Northland Regional Council member Lorraine Hill.
A spokesman for Ontrack, which owns KiwiRail, said the company welcomed the decision and was still working through the commissioners' conditions.
However, the spokesman said, no funding for the rail link, which is expected to cost well over $130million, had been allocated at this stage.
NRC chairman Mark Farnsworth said the decision was a significant milestone in a project poised to deliver significant, long-lasting economic benefits to the entire Northland region.
 He said the proposed line would link the Marsden Pt deepwater port to the national rail network and as such would be an invaluable piece of infrastructure for Northland.
"With that in mind, the Northland Regional Council has worked closely with KiwiRail to ensure this key transport link and the route it will travel along is protected on behalf of all Northlanders," he said.
 The designation was just one step, albeit a crucial one, in the push to have the multimillion-dollar rail link constructed.
At this stage there was still no timetable for construction of the line  or how it  would be funded.
"However, construction could not happen at all without the designation process, which is why today's decision is such an important one.
"Equally importantly, it also allows those living along the proposed route to plan their futures with a great deal more certainty," he said.
The rail link, which would be two tracks, except for a single track up Mata Hill, would cross Oakleigh Wharf, Hewlett, Cotton, Flyger and One Tree Pt  Rds.
The consent applications drew 57 submissions,  31 supporting the plan, although some signalled they wanted changes.