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A month after predicting the closure of the Gisborne-Wairoa rail line, Federated Farmers is disappointed, but not surprised, the line between Napier and Gisborne is to be ‘mothballed’.
“Last month we knew KiwiRail’s Infrastructure and Engineering Business Plan meant the Gisborne-Wairoa stretch would be axed,” says Hamish Cave, Federated Farmers Gisborne-Wairoa provincial president.
“That put a question mark over Napier-Wairoa stretch but now we know it is going too.
“Phil Twyford, Labour’s Transport spokesperson is right on the button. Fifty thousand tonnes of rail freight previously moved by rail adds up to an extra 1,700 fully loaded 29-tonne truck movements.
“On paper it looks like a marginal increase of five to ten trucks a day, even factoring in rail’s projected volume growth. To be fair, the road network has been handling this volume since the line effectively closed.
“The issue for Federated Farmers and the entire Gisborne-Wairoa community is that we want freight to fill 50 or 100 more trucks each day. That would mean real economic growth but to get to that level requires real investment in our roads.
“Provincial New Zealand has had a gutful of Roads of National Significance being only about reducing city congestion. It is an insulting term because it means, to Wellington, provincial roads are not nationally significant.
“Road funding does not reflect where the export dollars are being generated. Without export dollars, you don’t have much of an economy. Provincial areas are not getting their fair share of the pie.
“Instead of rail becoming some totem, we need to ask how and what resources Gisborne-Wairoa needs to grow. Between 2006 and 2011, according to BERL, Gisborne was the second weakest performing regional economy in New Zealand.
“Successive droughts didn’t help our cause, but we did outperform the Horizons Region, despite Horizons having a major university, diversified agriculture and even some industry.
“That Gisborne did marginally better against all odds shows our potential. That is why we need better roads and infrastructure to realise it. We have to focus on where Gisborne-Wairoa ought to be, instead of feeling like we are in managed decline.
“I don’t imagine Auckland or Wellington would accept it, so why should we?
“Gisborne and Wairoa’s roads are nationally significant to us and should be to the rest of New Zealand," Mr Cave concluded.