Rail petition makes tracks to Beehive

Labour MP Stuart Nash, Green MP Gareth Hughes and Green Party candidate for East Coast Darryl Monteith with the petition on the steps of Parliament

As a Gissy-boy and rail-fan I passionately believe that we can’t afford to lose this community asset and we need to stand up to protect it. Kiwirail has announced the lines possible closure in 2012 if further customers can’t be found. The Government has given Kiwirail ten years to ‘turn itself around,’ but Kiwirail is only giving this line – which has faced decades of asset stripping, a lack of maintenance and poor service – three years to ‘turn around.’

This petition sends Kiwirail and the Transport Minister a strong message that the region wants the line to stay open.The line is a significant strategic asset that gives the region economic development options now and in the future. Losing the line means Gisborne kids will have less options for work when they grow up. Gisborne has a ‘wall of wood’ of plantation forestry nearing maturity and harvest, which is safest on the tracks not on trucks on the roads.

There are also potential tourism opportunities, on what must be the most beautiful scenic rail route in New Zealand, that would be lost if the line was to close. Petrol is now the most expensive ever at over $2.20 a litre and gives yet another reason to protect the line. Gisborne and the East Coast are isolated and highly dependent on imported oil for all land, air and sea transport and therefore vulnerable to oil price shocks. It makes sense to keep the line in working order in preparation for future oil price shocks and it is common for public good services like rail, that have considerable community, economic, environmental and road safety benefits, to be subsidised to a degree.

When I caught the local freight train last year I learnt from the drivers that the line had suffered a ‘death cycle’: a negative feedback loop over the preceding decades. What’s needed now is to start a positive feedback loop – investing in better track and services will lead to more customers leading to greater profits.

Next step for the petition is tabling in Parliament and discussion in Select Committee. You can show your support by joining the Facebook group.

5 Comments Posted

  1. john-ston: That would be a good manufacturing / engineering opportunity for a New Zealand company then?

  2. Again, bjchip, your proposal would do a lot more harm than good. Also, there is no electrified rail that runs unused – all 17 EF class locomotives earn their keep.

  3. Actually, having seen the North end of the Desert Road, I would regard a similar rule there as being “a good idea”. Having electrified rail unused and trucks by the hundreds sliding through all those hairpins just doesn’t seem right.

    What IS the plan for this country anyway. It isn’t like there is anything that LOOKS viable as a plan for this century just now. The Trucks aren’t going to be able to keep running when the price of Diesel and Petrol are at the mercy of the demand overseas. We need energy supplied HERE to move stuff.


  4. Toad, there are a couple of issues with forcing all heavy freight to utilise rail on the Napier to Gisborne corridor. Firstly, it doesn’t help the efficiency of rail if they have to ship everything – surely we have learnt from the bad old days that expecting rail to ship everything is a recipe for disaster. Secondly, it doesn’t help the customers of the trucking firms either – a train once a day isn’t as good as a truck on demand.

  5. Cheers, Gareth.

    As someone who was run off the road by a heavy truck rounding a tight corner over the centre line on SH2 between Gisborne and Napier a few years back (and there are many such tight corners on that road), I strongly believe that stretch of highway is not the sort of road we want more heavy trucks on. We need fewer.

    In fact I would support regulating to require heavy freight between Gisborne and Napier (or beyond) without any intervening stops to be required to go by rail rather than road for safety reasons. That stretch of SH2 is completely unsuitable for extensive heavy trucking.

    Alternatively, I suppose, we could spend billions of dollars upgrading the road, but that just doesn’t make sense when there is already a rail option.

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