This time . . . factoring in wellbeing

Dr Ganesh Nana leads feasibility study into reopening Gisborne's railway.

Dr Ganesh Nana leads feasibility study into reopening Gisborne's railway.

FULL STEAM AHEAD: A new feasibility study into reopening the rail connection between Gisborne and Wairoa is looking at all possible rail options for the region. That could even include tourism and passenger trains like Mainline Steam’s J1211, pictured above Black Beach heading to Gisborne before the line was washed out in 2012. File picture supplied
DAMAGED: The washout at Beach Loop which was damaged during a storm in 2012, resulting in the moth-balling of the Gisborne to Wairoa rail line. Picture by Dave Thomas
BACK IN THE DAY: A Gisborne-bound freight train passes Blacks Beach at Opoutama during the heyday of rail traffic in and out of this district. File picture
BERL chief economist Dr Ganesh Nana. Picture supplied​

Earlier this week the first ‘very preliminary’ work started to assess the viability of fixing and reopening the Wairoa to Gisborne rail line. Andrew Ashton speaks to main man heading up the feasibility study into reopening Gisborne’s railway . . .

Just a day after the first train from Napier stopped in Wairoa, it has been revealed work also started on a feasibility study to reopen the Napier line all the way to Gisborne.

Although previous desktop studies failed to put forward a case for reopening the Gisborne end of the line BERL chief economist Dr Ganesh Nana, who is leading the new feasibility study, said this time wellbeing factors would be included in the assessment, rather than just a cold cost-benefit monetary analysis.

“We had our first steering group meeting on Wednesday, so we are in our very preliminary stages of seeing what we have to do. It’s a Provincial Development Unit (PDU)-funded project, and BERL are the lead contractor and responsible for this work.

“A big component undoubtedly is the engineering element, in terms of the costings of various options to reinstate the line to a resilient standard. That engineering element is going ahead and what BERL is also focussed on is the economic and financial and social scenarios of the reinstatement.

“So very much looking at the community outcomes and looking at it from a wellbeing perspective, rather than a benefit-cost rationale. So we are not just looking at the core financials, it’s very much from that wellbeing perspective. We will be looking in terms of how the community might develop and the impacts on the social side. We are looking very much at the next generation, rather than immediate impacts, and does it open up opportunities for the development of the economy and the community and beyond, for the next generation.

“It’s much broader than previous studies which have been narrowly focussed on the transport costs and benefits.
“Wellbeing is very much part of the central government view of the world and that of local government, with the return of the ‘four wellbeings’ in the legislation of local government.

Building a vibrant community

“I would claim we have been doing wellbeing for a long time but it is now very much in the vocabulary and we very much have the mandate from our funders to go down that route as well.

“If we are talking about wellbeing, we are talking about years — the next generation if not more. That’s the different mindset, we should always have been looking at that but now we have been given the mandate. We have to be serious about how we define economic development and wellbeing, the way we are looking at it, is in opportunities for the next generation and contributing to communities.”

That could include direct opportunities for new jobs and indirect social benefits, he said.

It was about building a “vibrant community” that had both economic and social outcomes.
“Some of these things we can’t measure but we have to go there if we are serious about building the future, rather than continuing to put a sticking plaster over the issues of the past — which is where many of those previous reports come from.”

The Gisborne to Napier line closed in 2012, after the line was mothballed after a section of track at the Beach Loop area was badly damaged in a storm earlier that year.

In September the government’s Provincial Growth Fund committed to $600,000 for a two-pronged rail feasibility study to assess the viability of a rail tourism venture, including an extended Gisborne-Napier rail cycleway, and use of the Wairoa to Gisborne line for freight purposes.

Dr Nana said the study would assess all aspects of rail use.
“How we are interpreting a feasibility study and the PDU have signed off on this, is we are looking at the range of options that are available.

“We are not so much focussed on a yes-no decision. We are looking at the options ranging from the ‘do nothing’ to the various spectrums to reinstate the line and what those uses will be — freight only, tourism, a combination of the two — and we will come out with the ‘likely outcomes’ for the Tairawhiti community, broadly speaking.”
That will include social, economic outcomes for each scenario.

“The next step would be to suggest the scenarios that are worth delving into, in terms of developing a full business case.
“We will come at it from an economic development perspective which is broadly defined. We’ve been doing this sort of work over the last two decades for quite a while.”

The study would also focus on Maori development at the same time.
“The two go together in my mind, especially in this part of Aotearoa.”

Dr Nana said the BERL team was also keen to talk to as many elements of the community as it could about their perspectives of where rail and or road fit in that future scenario for Tairawhiti and Wairoa.

“The opening of Napier to Wairoa does change that equation a bit. The appetite from Kiwirail and its owners, central Government, changes that a little bit. There’s also a young population here, and primary sector economic base — and throw in there climate change. With all those things we have to look to the future and build them into the jigsaw puzzle.”

The feasibility study should be completed by September or October.

To get involved email info@berl.co.nz.

Earlier this week the first ‘very preliminary’ work started to assess the viability of fixing and reopening the Wairoa to Gisborne rail line. Andrew Ashton speaks to main man heading up the feasibility study into reopening Gisborne’s railway . . .

Just a day after the first train from Napier stopped in Wairoa, it has been revealed work also started on a feasibility study to reopen the Napier line all the way to Gisborne.

Although previous desktop studies failed to put forward a case for reopening the Gisborne end of the line BERL chief economist Dr Ganesh Nana, who is leading the new feasibility study, said this time wellbeing factors would be included in the assessment, rather than just a cold cost-benefit monetary analysis.

“We had our first steering group meeting on Wednesday, so we are in our very preliminary stages of seeing what we have to do. It’s a Provincial Development Unit (PDU)-funded project, and BERL are the lead contractor and responsible for this work.

“A big component undoubtedly is the engineering element, in terms of the costings of various options to reinstate the line to a resilient standard. That engineering element is going ahead and what BERL is also focussed on is the economic and financial and social scenarios of the reinstatement.

“So very much looking at the community outcomes and looking at it from a wellbeing perspective, rather than a benefit-cost rationale. So we are not just looking at the core financials, it’s very much from that wellbeing perspective. We will be looking in terms of how the community might develop and the impacts on the social side. We are looking very much at the next generation, rather than immediate impacts, and does it open up opportunities for the development of the economy and the community and beyond, for the next generation.

“It’s much broader than previous studies which have been narrowly focussed on the transport costs and benefits.
“Wellbeing is very much part of the central government view of the world and that of local government, with the return of the ‘four wellbeings’ in the legislation of local government.

Building a vibrant community

“I would claim we have been doing wellbeing for a long time but it is now very much in the vocabulary and we very much have the mandate from our funders to go down that route as well.

“If we are talking about wellbeing, we are talking about years — the next generation if not more. That’s the different mindset, we should always have been looking at that but now we have been given the mandate. We have to be serious about how we define economic development and wellbeing, the way we are looking at it, is in opportunities for the next generation and contributing to communities.”

That could include direct opportunities for new jobs and indirect social benefits, he said.

It was about building a “vibrant community” that had both economic and social outcomes.
“Some of these things we can’t measure but we have to go there if we are serious about building the future, rather than continuing to put a sticking plaster over the issues of the past — which is where many of those previous reports come from.”

The Gisborne to Napier line closed in 2012, after the line was mothballed after a section of track at the Beach Loop area was badly damaged in a storm earlier that year.

In September the government’s Provincial Growth Fund committed to $600,000 for a two-pronged rail feasibility study to assess the viability of a rail tourism venture, including an extended Gisborne-Napier rail cycleway, and use of the Wairoa to Gisborne line for freight purposes.

Dr Nana said the study would assess all aspects of rail use.
“How we are interpreting a feasibility study and the PDU have signed off on this, is we are looking at the range of options that are available.

“We are not so much focussed on a yes-no decision. We are looking at the options ranging from the ‘do nothing’ to the various spectrums to reinstate the line and what those uses will be — freight only, tourism, a combination of the two — and we will come out with the ‘likely outcomes’ for the Tairawhiti community, broadly speaking.”
That will include social, economic outcomes for each scenario.

“The next step would be to suggest the scenarios that are worth delving into, in terms of developing a full business case.
“We will come at it from an economic development perspective which is broadly defined. We’ve been doing this sort of work over the last two decades for quite a while.”

The study would also focus on Maori development at the same time.
“The two go together in my mind, especially in this part of Aotearoa.”

Dr Nana said the BERL team was also keen to talk to as many elements of the community as it could about their perspectives of where rail and or road fit in that future scenario for Tairawhiti and Wairoa.

“The opening of Napier to Wairoa does change that equation a bit. The appetite from Kiwirail and its owners, central Government, changes that a little bit. There’s also a young population here, and primary sector economic base — and throw in there climate change. With all those things we have to look to the future and build them into the jigsaw puzzle.”

The feasibility study should be completed by September or October.

To get involved email info@berl.co.nz.

Your email address will not be published. Comments will display after being approved by a staff member. Comments may be edited for clarity.

Jeni Walton - 5 months ago
It would be great to reopen the track.

Michaela - 5 months ago
I feel a Nike ad would fit perfectly here: Just do it! Gisborne is a very isolated part of the country, which has its advantages, but rail opens so many possibilities. The time it will take to complete the study and the $600,000 that the powers-that-be will gobble up over that period is time and money taken away from the actual task at hand.

David Foote, Tokoroa - 5 months ago
Having lived in Gisborne when it had both passenger trains and a railcar service between Gisborne and Wellington, I know how well it was used. Opening it now after all these years it would not only be a great benefit to the locals, but add value to the tourists taking the train, as the Napier Gisborne link is unique as far as scenery is concerned.

Hine - 5 months ago
I would love to be able to take the train through the entire North Island, like they do with the South Island train.

Michael, Napier - 4 months ago
Tourist trains and local passenger trains would be a great asset to the Gisborne region and help build tourism in the region, which would create jobs for locals.
Also reducing some of the growing number of logging and freight trucks off our roads would be of great benefit to car users. Trucks would shuttle between forests/industry and a rail hub for log/freight trains to move cargo north and south to the ports etc, this making our roads safer by reducing heavy trucks and benefiting the environment as rail is more environmentally friendly.

Phil Hunt - 4 months ago
There have been so many reports on this line, but I have faith that once re-opened it will prove a worthy lifeline for the Gisborne region. It's a pity the line didn't go further to Tolaga, for example, as that would have taken a lot of heavy traffic off the road over the past 30 years. Not just logs but plenty of other steady traffics are offering.
If it was restored, I predict at least 6 or 8 special passenger trains would use the line after the first year. There is a New Zealand tour every year that would visit at least for one and possibly two nights. Most of the passengers are from Australia and Europe, so the publicity (word of mouth) would be a positive.
More on that later.

Mike A Webb, Wairoa - 4 months ago
Gisborne-Wairoa rail link now.

Wayne Mason, Paekakariki - 4 months ago
I believe the real reason the Wairoa-Gisborne section remains closed is a political one, ie vested interests in the port - from which the council benefits alongside its owner Eastland Community Trust. So the council doesn't want freight siphoned off by the railway reopening.

Niall Robertson, Auckland - 4 months ago
Wayne Mason is quite right. There is an unhealthy alliance between Eastland Group and the GDC which benefits from Eastland Group. However, Eastland Group are holding the region to ransom by thinking irrationally. The freight that rail wants is currently on the roads. Despite what they say, Eastland Port cannot cope with anything more than the logs passing through there now. They do quite a good job of this, but there are major challenges. They need to spend about $90 million to expand to cope with a projected 5 million tonnes of logs per annum. Ships cannot fully load and need to top up at other ports. They need to constantly dredge and their tailing dumping is becoming a nuisance to local iwi, as it appears to be affecting their fishing grounds. They cannot deprive Gisborne of transport links when they are facing such challenges themselves. Gisborne needs resilience and connectivity. Many local businesses need rail, other businesses would more likely develop with rail, outside interests want to bring tourist trains to Gisborne, and the people of Gisborne have consistently asked for rail in successive polls.

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