A Gisborne public meeting hosted by Mayor Meng Foon was the platform for Labour Party MP Moana Mackey to announce her party’s intention to reopen the Gisborne to Napier railway line if they are in power after next year’s election and the current Government abandons it.
“Having read the BERL report the Labour Party can now see the economic opportunity the rail provides and we are convinced it makes sense to retain the line, keep the extra trucks off the road and keep East Coast products competitive” said Ms Mackey.
“The National Party received a real bollocking at the meeting” said organiser and District Councillor Manu Caddie.
A member of the public moved a vote of no confidence in Anne Tolley and Chris Tremain that was almost unanimously supported by the more than 100 residents present and speakers suggested while the provinces have been loyal to National, the party leadership seem to have forgotten about rural New Zealanders.
Forest owner Roger Dickie said he had 18 million tonnes of trees to be harvested in the region and he wants to send at least 7.5 million tonnes south by rail. Mr Dickie also criticised Juken Nisho who own a mill in Gisborne and Eastland Port for lobbying the Government against retention of the line in an effort to bolster their own businesses at the expense of others in the region.
Mr Dickie responded to KiwiRail Chief Executive Jim Quinn’s claims that short haul railways are uneconomic by pointing out a number of similar and shorter lines carting logs profitably for KiwiRail.
Green MP Julie Genter said the $500,000 for a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis was small change compared to the $100 million of taxpayers funds the Government has spent on consultants for a $3-5 billion motorway in Wellington.
“If the Government wants to take this public asset away from the region then they need to be able to justify the decision with accurate figures” said Mr Caddie. “BERL have shown the numbers are much closer than KiwiRail suggested and that doesn’t even take into account the massive extra cost to road maintenance, road safety issues, environmental benefits and the cost to regional jobs if Gisborne products are less competitive.”
“$4 million is the cheapest the repair is ever going to be, so fix it now” said Ms Mackey.
“Many of the regional roads in our district would not exist if Council applied the same economic rationale to them as KiwiRail has to” said Mayor Foon. Gisborne deserves to have services and infrastructure similar to every other part of the country. We deserve good schools, good hospitals, good roads and a good railway line.”