Ardern, Peters and Jones to launch regional growth fund

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. New Zealand Herald photograph

PRIME Minister Jacinda Ardern and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters will be in Gisborne tomorrow to attend the launch of the Government’s Tuawhenua Provincial Growth Fund, through which extra funding to bring the Napier-Wairoa railway line back into full-time service is anticipated.

Also visiting will be Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones, who is expected to announce $70 million-worth of project funding on rail and other infrastructure.

The Prime Minister would also make a housing-related visit in Gisborne and possibly visit another location yet to be confirmed, her chief press secretary Mike Jaspers said.

The Tuawhenua Provincial Growth Fund launch is part of the coalition Government’s agreed policy of having a $1 billion annual regional development (provincial growth) fund.

The fund covers the capital cost of planting 100 million trees a year, and includes significant investment in regional rail and commissioning a feasibility study of options for moving the Ports of Auckland.

National business news agency Business Desk said extra funding to bring the Napier-Wairoa railway line back into full-time service appears imminent, given signals from KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy and the announcement tomorrow of the first projects to get support from the regional development fund.

KiwiRail was invited to start running a weekend logging service between Wairoa and Napier in April last year, as a first step towards the possible reinstatement of the whole rail link between Gisborne and Napier, which was washed out north of Wairoa in storms in 2012.

Capital costs

But the capital cost of bringing the Wairoa section back into service proved greater than expected, Mr Reidy told BusinessDesk.

Now an alliance between the Port of Napier, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council and KiwiRail means an announcement on reopening the line, with potential to become a weekday service, is live.

“In Napier, we’ve done a tripartite thing between HBRC, Napier port and ourselves and there will be an announcement, I think this week, around that,” Mr Reidy said.

“To go to a weekday service we would have to invest in new assets. If the forestry companies and the regional council are willing to keep investing in the line, we’d be willing to put some more flatbed wagons on it and operate a five-day-a-week service. That’s the goal.”

Mr Reidy said KiwiRail was experiencing its strongest growth in log volumes from forests located more than 75 kilometres away from a port. Any closer, and trucks were more competitive.

“Outside a 75km radius, we compete with trucks,” Mr Reidy said. He noted that some of the proposals would invest for growth in the rail network for many years, instead of just maintenance.

But he was less optimistic about the potential to reopen the Wairoa-Gisborne connection. Even though Gisborne is the country’s second-largest log export port, substantial investment would be required to bring the damaged line back into service.

“We haven’t put anything up yet in terms of upgrade, but if we get to Wairoa, who knows what the Government might like to do in terms of any development,” he said.

Cabinet minister and MP for Ikaroa-Rawhiti Meka Whaitiri said the Tuawhenua Provincial Growth Fund was high on Mr Peters’ priorities. Neglected regions would be prioritised.

“I welcome the attention and commitment from the minister,’’ she said.

The launch would ensure landowners would get information quickly if they wished to participate.

Ms Whaitiri said on a date yet to be confirmed she and Mr Jones would travel on an East Coast (and Matawai) roadshow to speak to those unable to attend the launch.

Mr Jones has previously told The Gisborne Herald he would be the champion of the regions.

PRIME Minister Jacinda Ardern and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters will be in Gisborne tomorrow to attend the launch of the Government’s Tuawhenua Provincial Growth Fund, through which extra funding to bring the Napier-Wairoa railway line back into full-time service is anticipated.

Also visiting will be Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones, who is expected to announce $70 million-worth of project funding on rail and other infrastructure.

The Prime Minister would also make a housing-related visit in Gisborne and possibly visit another location yet to be confirmed, her chief press secretary Mike Jaspers said.

The Tuawhenua Provincial Growth Fund launch is part of the coalition Government’s agreed policy of having a $1 billion annual regional development (provincial growth) fund.

The fund covers the capital cost of planting 100 million trees a year, and includes significant investment in regional rail and commissioning a feasibility study of options for moving the Ports of Auckland.

National business news agency Business Desk said extra funding to bring the Napier-Wairoa railway line back into full-time service appears imminent, given signals from KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy and the announcement tomorrow of the first projects to get support from the regional development fund.

KiwiRail was invited to start running a weekend logging service between Wairoa and Napier in April last year, as a first step towards the possible reinstatement of the whole rail link between Gisborne and Napier, which was washed out north of Wairoa in storms in 2012.

Capital costs

But the capital cost of bringing the Wairoa section back into service proved greater than expected, Mr Reidy told BusinessDesk.

Now an alliance between the Port of Napier, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council and KiwiRail means an announcement on reopening the line, with potential to become a weekday service, is live.

“In Napier, we’ve done a tripartite thing between HBRC, Napier port and ourselves and there will be an announcement, I think this week, around that,” Mr Reidy said.

“To go to a weekday service we would have to invest in new assets. If the forestry companies and the regional council are willing to keep investing in the line, we’d be willing to put some more flatbed wagons on it and operate a five-day-a-week service. That’s the goal.”

Mr Reidy said KiwiRail was experiencing its strongest growth in log volumes from forests located more than 75 kilometres away from a port. Any closer, and trucks were more competitive.

“Outside a 75km radius, we compete with trucks,” Mr Reidy said. He noted that some of the proposals would invest for growth in the rail network for many years, instead of just maintenance.

But he was less optimistic about the potential to reopen the Wairoa-Gisborne connection. Even though Gisborne is the country’s second-largest log export port, substantial investment would be required to bring the damaged line back into service.

“We haven’t put anything up yet in terms of upgrade, but if we get to Wairoa, who knows what the Government might like to do in terms of any development,” he said.

Cabinet minister and MP for Ikaroa-Rawhiti Meka Whaitiri said the Tuawhenua Provincial Growth Fund was high on Mr Peters’ priorities. Neglected regions would be prioritised.

“I welcome the attention and commitment from the minister,’’ she said.

The launch would ensure landowners would get information quickly if they wished to participate.

Ms Whaitiri said on a date yet to be confirmed she and Mr Jones would travel on an East Coast (and Matawai) roadshow to speak to those unable to attend the launch.

Mr Jones has previously told The Gisborne Herald he would be the champion of the regions.

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Peter, Katikati - 8 months ago
So the last govt is building the bridge into the Gorge which the Gisborne district has waited 50 years for . . . it seems to be late for some reason. The contractor mag said it would be open by Christmas!

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