Councillor and Regional Transport Committee member Manu Caddie says the Government needs to explain leaked documents purporting to show job losses on the East Coast.
New Zealand First MP Brendan Horan has said the documents suggest the Government has decided to mothball the damaged Napier to Gisborne line.
Kiwirail Chief Executive Jim Quinn told the Gisborne Regional Transport Committee in May that a decision on the future of the line would be made a matter of weeks.
“Following the presentation of 1,000 signed postcards and 10,000 petition signatures the Government has obviously wanted to make sure it has some positive spin on the situation before Kiwirail announces the closure. The people responsible need to stop fluffing around and give Gisborne businesses certainty one way or the other.”
“New Zealand businesses, particularly provincial exporters benefit from rail. Road users benefit from rail. It is unfortunate Eastland Port has selfishly undermined local support for retaining the rail.” The Gisborne Chamber of Commerce, Federated Farmers, local transport companies and forestry owners have all backed strong public support for the rail to be retained.
“This is a billion dollar public asset that is being taken away from us. Businesses demonstrated with little help from Kiwirail that there is enough local product to make the line viable in the short-term let alone as fuel prices and road maintenance costs increase” says Mr Caddie.
“This is happening at the same time as the Government spent $8 million on public relations to sell its seven Roads of National Significance, allows NZTA to borrow to cover the costs of new highways close to the major metropolitan centres and makes us share the costs of that borrowing, cuts subsidies for Council roads, takes back income from regional fuel tax and relegates our local roading priorities to the bottom of the list.”
Mr Caddie says Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee needs to be more honest about the situation. The Minister yesterday said that 29 per cent of roading funds will be spent on new and improved state highways, mostly the Roads of National Significance and 26 per cent will be spent on maintenance operations and renewal of local roads.
“What Mr Borwnlee neglected to say is that we have 94,000 km of roads in New Zealand, and it’s only 12 percent of that is state highway. The costs of maintaining local roads would be significantly less if more freight was using rail in and out of Gisborne and Wairoa.”
“The National Government is wasting billions of dollars on a few big motorway projects that would never be able to pay their own way as standalone commercial projects. But it won’t invest in getting our rail line operating after poor maintenance let it wash away.”
“Most countries are now investing substantially in their rail networks because of the obvious economic benefits, especially as oil prices are expected to double in the next decade.”