Huntly railway station – Raahui Pookeka – has undergone significant upgrades over the past 18 months and plans are now well advanced to return it.
The old station building is at Lake Puketirini reserve and Waikato District Council aims to have finished the move by early next year.
In 2015 the council formed Waikato District Alliance (WDA) with Downer to maintain roading and other assets within the district.
Over the past two and a half years, the WDA has built a new rail platform, installed security and lighting at the station.
The project also included a new park and ride, taxi bays, passenger information display boards, and walking and cycling links.
The upgrades and enhancements were integral to the launch of the Te Huia passenger rail service in April 2021, connecting Waikato to Auckland.
Despite covid-19 challenges, the WDA completed the project $200,000 under budget. The surplus was donated back to the wider Te Huia project.
Waikato Regional Council's Rail Programme Management Office has commended the district council on the upgrades completed so far, stating that the work has been to a high standard and exceeded expectations.
In 2008, the historic station building was moved to Lake Puketirini with the intention that it would host the Waikato Coalfields Museum.
But since 2017 the Museum Committee has advocated for it to return to the railway station and has done significant groundwork to enable the council to action the project.
The committee will take over tenancy of the building once it has been sited. Th district council is grateful for the $100k financial contribution that Genesis have made, and for their ongoing support towards the project.
The council is working on the relocation plan guided by the Museum Committee, Huntly Community Board, iwi and Genesis. The detailed process considers many things, including:
• Strengthening the building to ensure longevity,
• Gaining approval from KiwiRail for the move,
• Building consent compliance,
• Lease and sub-lease approval,
• Health and safety compliance (ongoing),
• Stakeholder engagement (ongoing)
• Design planning and fitout with architects.
The planned completion of next month is unlikely because of the complexities of relocation and Covid-19 restrictions. However, the project continues to steam ahead and has an estimated completion date of early 2022.
Once completed, residents of Huntly, Te Huia passengers, and the community will be able to enjoy the railway station in its entirety.
The building will boast a stunning museum with cultural history of significance to the town, new restroom facilities, meeting rooms for hire and artwork on display.
Councillor Eugene Patterson is thrilled with the work completed by the WDA and commended the ongoing success of the partnership.
"The restoration and upgrades to the railway station have been needed for some time; with the significant growth our district continues to face," he said.
"The upgrades have been a critical part of delivering the wider Te Huia service and provide our residents with a high-quality transport hub.
"With this historic building back to its rightful place, Huntly will be able to showcase this asset to the rest of Aotearoa, while connecting two large regions in the North Island."