Time to hear rail plan from Govt

EDITORIAL

Our correspondent today calling for the Gisborne-Napier rail line to be reconnected is right to lament nearly six years of missed opportunities, and to seek clarity from the Government over the future of this regional asset.

The feeling we have been “jerked around” will be shared by many, but with different protagonists and opportunities in mind. Blame can be attributed widely, but the lack of progress in any direction boils down to rail restoration, or a move to alternative use/s of the rail corridor, being highly contentious . . . and the key decision, of whether this region should be serviced by rail, ultimately being one for central government.

Under National-led governments the answer was “no” because it and state rail operator KiwiRail could not see a viable business case, just a need for continuing subsidy.

That position met ongoing and passionate advocacy for the line to be reopened. Apart from in 2012 after its closure following storm damage, however, this effort has had limited support from regional leaders. So we have tortuously got to the position where the Wairoa-Napier section of the line is slated for reopening later this year (a year on from what was planned, because not enough logs were being committed yet to make it viable), and a railbike operator was chosen last year as preferred leasee of the Gisborne-Wairoa section of the line.

We now have a new coalition Government that might reopen the line for rail. The two junior partners would send in the repair crews tomorrow, but Labour’s election policy was that it would reopen the line if evidence showed it would be sustainable. It wanted to see community and business support.

Since then there has been silence on the matter, though that policy provides context to the urging in November from Regional Development Minister Shane Jones (of New Zealand First, and a vocal rail proponent) for Gisborne to “groom up” a proposal around restoration of the railway.

So the questions for Minister of Transport Phil Twyford are, what process will the Government follow to seek evidence of the Gisborne line’s viability for a reconnected rail service, and on what timetable?

Our correspondent today calling for the Gisborne-Napier rail line to be reconnected is right to lament nearly six years of missed opportunities, and to seek clarity from the Government over the future of this regional asset.

The feeling we have been “jerked around” will be shared by many, but with different protagonists and opportunities in mind. Blame can be attributed widely, but the lack of progress in any direction boils down to rail restoration, or a move to alternative use/s of the rail corridor, being highly contentious . . . and the key decision, of whether this region should be serviced by rail, ultimately being one for central government.

Under National-led governments the answer was “no” because it and state rail operator KiwiRail could not see a viable business case, just a need for continuing subsidy.

That position met ongoing and passionate advocacy for the line to be reopened. Apart from in 2012 after its closure following storm damage, however, this effort has had limited support from regional leaders. So we have tortuously got to the position where the Wairoa-Napier section of the line is slated for reopening later this year (a year on from what was planned, because not enough logs were being committed yet to make it viable), and a railbike operator was chosen last year as preferred leasee of the Gisborne-Wairoa section of the line.

We now have a new coalition Government that might reopen the line for rail. The two junior partners would send in the repair crews tomorrow, but Labour’s election policy was that it would reopen the line if evidence showed it would be sustainable. It wanted to see community and business support.

Since then there has been silence on the matter, though that policy provides context to the urging in November from Regional Development Minister Shane Jones (of New Zealand First, and a vocal rail proponent) for Gisborne to “groom up” a proposal around restoration of the railway.

So the questions for Minister of Transport Phil Twyford are, what process will the Government follow to seek evidence of the Gisborne line’s viability for a reconnected rail service, and on what timetable?

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Richard - 5 days ago
Shane Jones' "grooming up" was a fatuous, ill-judged comment. The infrastructure of a nation is no beauty contest - it demands a meticulous examination and presentation of the investment case for the re-establishment of the Gisborne line in the current socio economic, environmental, engineering and commercial instruments pertaining to the here and now, and the indicators for the mid-term i.e. the next 15 to 20yrs operating life. A balance sheet of sustainability.

Governments of any political flavour cannot be viewed as finance oceans waiting to wash money upon your shores on the next tide. For any proposal to succeed they, the incumbent administration must be approached as one would any private venture capital. Your robust submission must be able to withstand all due diligence, and secure funding in preference to the thousand-and-one other claims on their coffers. Passionate advocacy alone, and implausible submissions - as can be seen over these past five years - are bound not to succeed.

Whilst I also find the phrase "jerked around" unhelpful, one must expect to be rejected and disregarded when seeking substantial underwriting. There are many instances of new ideas seeking funding and support that are rejected time and again. The successful ones learn from those rejections, refine their presentations, and go on to not only secure funding but succeed in becoming durable projects. Supporters of the reinstatement of the Gisborne rail line must arrogate these fundamentals. Failure to do so will result in your cause being continually obstructed or even ill-fated for all time.


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