With the launch of the Hamilton to Auckland commuter rail service fast approaching, the Waikato Regional Council wants to build a business case to extend the passenger service to Tauranga, including digging a second tunnel through Kaimai ranges.
WRC chairman Russell Rimmington said development of the Hamilton to Auckland rail service has moved quickly in the past three years, and the momentum must be kept up to extend the line to Tauranga.
"I couldn't even get it on an agenda three years ago, but then the Labour Government came in and it was like the aligning of the stars, Hugh Vercoe got in and Dave Macpherson and Andrew King were really good on their side," Mr Rimmington said.
"We are now looking to get funding for a business case to push the service into Tauranga, which will involve building a new passenger rail tunnel through the Kaimais.
"There is an existing freight tunnel but it is too toxic to use, the drivers have to wear masks through that tunnel."
He said the metro rail plan between Hamilton and its neighbouring Waikato towns such as Cambridge and Te Awamutu was also a crucial element of alternative transport that needs to come together.
"I say to my colleague all the times how in countries like Britain they are moving huge volumes of people in a safe way by using trains, we need to have that here in the Waikato.
"If we build more highways we are going to invite more cars and where are you going to park these cars when they get to their destinations like Auckland."
Mr Rimmington said his ultimate vision is passengers putting their bags in at The Base Te Rapa, and take them off in Sydney.
"I want passengers to be able to get on the train in Rotokauri, travel direct to Auckland airport and catch their flight with ease."
Hamilton City councillors were briefed by councillor Ewan Wilson on the readiness of the train service, where he said there were a few red flags popping up, but that they were working on solutions with a start date for the service expected soon.
Councillor Dave Macpherson said there could be delays in getting the overbridge at the new Rotokauri transport station installed while they wait on the necessary equipment, but it would be weeks not months.
Te Huia has been confirmed as the name of the Hamilton to Auckland commuter rail after being endorsed by the three councils involved in the service.
Hamilton City Council, Waikato District Council, and Waikato Regional Council have all approved the name Te Huia as the preferred choice for the service which is due to launch later this year.
WRC chairman Russel Rimmington said naming the service Te Huia was a brilliant idea.
"It's H for Hamilton and then U and I and then A for Auckland, Huia," Mr Rimmington said.
Te Huia was a bird tapu (sacred) to Māori with its white-tipped tail feathers being highly prized.
The Te Huia is believed to be extinct. The last sighting of the bird was in 1907.
The bird was noted for having beautiful tail feathers, orange wattles, and a long curved beak.
According to Wikipedia, it was wiped out because of over hunting to procure huia skins for mounted specimens and their tail feathers for hat decorations.
Another major cause was widespread deforestation of the lowlands of the North Island by European settlers to create pasture.