2012 Projects

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Some of the stuff I’m focused on this year…
  1. Gang Transformation Project via GDC, Police, schools, churches, sports clubs and residents associations
  2. Representation Review: ensuring the fairest electoral structure for Tairāwhiti via GDC
  3. Regional Housing Needs Assessment via GDC
  4. Keeping Kids Safe Project via Te Ora Hou Aotearoa
  5. Neighbourhood Resource Centres via HNZC, Ka Pai Kaiti Trust & Te Ora Hou
  6. Computer Clubhouse for Waikirikiri School
  7. Gisborne-Napier railway retention via Gisborne Rail Action Group
  8. Cycleways & Walkways via GDC Ten Year Plan, NZTA, Cycling Advisory Group, etc.
  9. Māori Land & Rates via GDC Māori Land Working Group with TPK, etc.
  10. Central Government better linked into local priorities via Whānau Ora, MSD, etc.
  11. Pēnu Marae – new wharepaku and wharenui roof hopefully
  12. Rere Rockslide – stream quality monitoring and restoration project
  13. Economic Development projects – biofuels and biochemistry projects, regional skills development and entrepreneurs recruitment campaign

Creating a Cycling-Centric City

The Regional Transport Committee last week had a lively debate on whether one of the top three goals for the district transport programme should include encouraging alternatives to the private motor vehicle. In the end we agreed encouraging alternative transport options is important and agreed that promoting cycling, walking and public transport is a priority.

Private cars use approximately 60% of all fuel consumed by road transport, New Zealand imports and burns through more than $20million of fuel per day!

A 2009 report by the Ministry of Transport suggests we spend a lot more time in the car and less time spent walking and cycling than we did 20 years ago. Gisborne drivers travel less distance than any other region in the country and Gisborne cyclists spend longer on our bikes each week than any other region.

In the mid-nineties there were about 15,000 motor vehicles crossing the Gladstone Road bridge each day, I suspect the volume might be slightly higher than that now. Around the country only 1% of people travel to work by bicycle, while 94% travel in a private motor vehicle. And only 5% of students – or one quarter of those that cycled when I left school 20 years ago – now cycle to high school.

In 2004 the Gisborne District Council signed up to the ‘Walking and Cycling Strategy for the Gisborne District’.

The vision of the strategy is that:

‘Gisborne District is a walking and cycling friendly region. Walking and cycling are safe, convenient, enjoyable and popular forms of transport and leisure that contribute to community, well-being and tourism.’

Targets for how the effectiveness of the strategy were to be measured have never been added to the empty boxes in document, though some general goals such as 10% of students walking or cycling to school by 2015 and an increase by 10% of commuters travelling to work by walking or cycling by 2015 are goals we now have only three years left to achieve. It is time to review the Strategy.

An iconic project included in the Strategy and championed by people like the late Murial Jones, Kathy Sheldrake, Phil Evans and Richard Coates is the Wainui-Sponge Bay cycleway. This project is designed to make it safer for commuter cyclists coming from Wainui and recreational cyclists from the city to get in and out on, particularly given the rapid increase in heavy vehicles on State Highway 35. We expect a funding decision on this project within the next month.

The Gisborne Cycling Advisory Group was established a couple of years ago and has made some great contributions to cycle route planning in both the urban and rural areas. Focused largely on commuter and tourist cyclists, the group meets monthly and is open to anyone keen on advocating for cycling infrastructure and encouraging the public to cycle more.

As a recent Australian report on the economic benefits of cycling reveals, bicycle travel cuts millions off the national waist line and bottom line. Inactivity is now a major cause of health problems and cycling provides a practical, sustainable and cheap opportunity to help get more Kiwis active and drive down the cost of health care.

Of course the more cyclists there are, the safer it becomes – and while we may be seeing a national trend away from commuter cycling, most Gisborne city residents have few excuses not to cycle or walk to work. The city is relatively compact, very flat, enjoys a good climate and has an ever increasing number of cycleways. It has been great to see so many people on bikes this summer, how can we encourage even more to make the move?

Last train out of town?

Rail supporters who turned out on Sunday to see what may be the last steam train to ever travel from Gisborne to Wellington heard of plans to establish new tourist ventures if the line is retained.

Speaking to the crowd of over 100 passengers and local supporters, Mainline Steam Heritage Trustee Rob Martin, said he was keen to see the line retained as the Trust planned more train excursions to Gisborne as part of their North Island tour packages. Mr Martin has been studying the financial benefits of using the rail to carry logs to both Gisborne and Napier ports.

Mr Martin said he was equally anxious that the line be retained as a tourist attraction. “The line from Wairoa to Gisborne must be the equal of any scenic line worldwide and has been a must for our annual tour train since the line was reopened three years ago. I pay tribute to the Gisborne City Vintage Railway which has developed a very professional venture being one of only two heritage operators to have their own licence with the approval for its own drivers to operate over KiwiRail lines.  In the past Mainline Steam Heritage Trust has been hampered by not owning its own carriages but this has been remedied and we would be very keen to set up an operation in Napier to cover the line to Gisborne.”

“Rail came to Gisborne through political support, it was paid for by our forebears and as the current postcard campaign to John Key points out, this investment is a strategic asset that must be retained to safeguard the future of the Gisborne economy” said Mr Martin.

Green Party candidate Darryl Monteith thanked the 60 passengers and said he hoped they had enjoyed the trip. “One passenger told us the Gisborne branch line is as spectacular as the popular Trans-Alpine route in the South Island” said Mr Monteith. “With rising fuel prices from peak oil and climate change policies, we must retain this line to ensure we have affordable freight options in and out of Gisborne.”

Labour Party MP and East Coast candidate Moana Mackey recalled her memories of travelling on the line for school trips and how the Labour Party had bought back the rundown railways and helped Kiwirail establish a credible, state asset. Kiwirail was now being told it had to cut underperforming lines like Gisborne if it wanted any government assistance.

Geoff Joyce from Gisborne City Vintage Rail lamented the plan to close the line as WA165 was the only locomotive of its class and the Gisborne line was the only option for WA165 to run on. While the Vintage Rail Trust had been talking to Kiwirail about keeping the section to Beach Roop open, that would require a major sponsor to fund it.

Mayor Meng Foon and Deputy Mayor Nona Aston were both out of town for the weekend but passed on messages of support for the line to be retained.

Gisborne District Councillor Manu Caddie said rail was a safer option than trucking with up to three times the current number of trucks predicted to soon be on Gisborne roads and nearly every month another one rolls on difficult East Coast roads.

“Railing logs to the ports will not cost a single trucking job – volumes of logs are increasing and all we are saying is put anything extra onto rail” said Mr Caddie. “It is not a level playing field between roads and rail – roading has huge taxpayer subsidies, yet rail is expected to be fully self-funded. If the government mothball this line it will be the end of it – that’s a billion dollar investment we won’t be able to afford to replace when we need it in the future. We have seen what happens to mothballed lines in other parts of the country – they are neglected and the lines and sleepers stolen.”

Mr Caddie said the good news was the huge volume of wood due to come out of Wairoa forests in the next five years and he had heard of a Gisborne quarry relying on the rail to move their product out of the district. “It is also heartening to hear of plans for increased tourist trains, though we know increased freight is also required.

Rites of passage research identifies keys for healthy, prosperous communities

What life lessons did previous generations of young people need to learn before they became adults? Could these rites of passage provide some answers to the multiple challenges facing young Maori today? These two questions were the foundation for a three year national project led by Gisborne researcher Manu Caddie and a team of youth workers from around the country.

Youth workers from Christchurch, Wellington, Whanganui, Whangarei and Tairawhiti interviewed Maori elders in their community with a focus on their experiences as children and adolescents. The interviews were filmed and key messages from the stories compiled into a written summary.

On Sunday night, 6pm at the Dome Cinema in Gisborne, the findings from the project will be released at a public screening of “Hei Tikitiki” a new DVD featuring highlights from more than 30 interviews. A 90 page report summarising the research findings will be available along with copies of the DVD.

The project received financial support from the Lottery Community Sector Research Fund and was based on a proposal Mr Caddie prepared for Te Ora Hou Aotearoa in 2008. Te Ora Hou is a national network of faith-based Maori youth and community development organisations established in 1976. “Te Ora Hou youth workers have contact with hundreds of young people and families every week, we decided this research was essential to do if we wanted to assist with healthy transitions into adulthood” said Mr Caddie. “The 21st yard glass, passing exams and making babies are modern day rites of passage but there are some fundamental life lessons that aren’t being taught to young people, in fact advertising, entertainment media and consumer culture promote the exact opposite of values previous generations were required to accept before being considered responsible adults.”

“It’s been a fairly drawn out process, some of the people interviewed have since passed away, so the footage we have of their stories is very significant to their families” said Mr Caddie. “It was a really special inter-generational experience for the young people and youth workers to interview their elders. I would like to see an on-going project established in Gisborne where we support young people to record the stories and reflections of our elderly. The way society is structured now we tend to segregate the age groups and the wisdom of older people is lost if they do not have the opportunity to share it with the younger generations coming through.”

Anthropology has for at least the last 200 years looked at the purpose of rites of passage within cultures. “A rite of passage deals with entering a new stage of life, maturation in physical, social and sexual status and membership of a new group” said Mr Caddie. The researchers  important theme running through much of the literature is that rites of passage do not exist for the benefit of the individual participating in the process but for the benefit of the community and culture to which the person belongs.”

Most of the interviewees had grown up in communities and a time where Te Reo was the dominant language and tikanga Māori was still the dominant culture. A few had direct experience of traditional institutions like the whare wananga or were mentored by tohunga and kuia born in the 19th Century who ensured certain processes and rituals were in place for the child and adolescents.

Many of the interviewees felt that their experience of rites of passage was more a general process of development rather than an explicit event or an intentional set of lessons that the teachers and learners were consciously participating in.

Interviewees identified a range of experiences more closely assigned with western or contemporary rites of passage including leaving home, first job and working to support parents and siblings, getting a mortgage, general educational advancement including Māori trade training schemes, personal rites of passage, legal marriage, being given or taking responsibility for housework and farm work, choosing own clothing, fashion as a symbol of independence and enlisting in the military.

Common themes that emerged about the purpose and outcomes from experiences that they considered rites of passage include the intergenerational transmission of:

–        Maramatanga / essential values: manaakitanga (hospitality), respect for and valuing the guidance of elders, strong work ethic, personal integrity, contribution to the wellbeing of the whole community, respect and care for the natural environment and other creatures, etc.

–        Mātauranga / essential knowledge: whakapapa (genealogy and how different whānau, hapū and iwi are connected), wahi tapu (sacred places), wahi kai (food sources), battle-sites, astrology, astronomy and patterns of natural phenomenon that guide certain activities, roles and responsibilities of particular whānau within the hapū, cross-cultural comparisons, etc.

–        Mahitanga / essential skills: cultivating food, hunting and collecting food, preparing and storing food, communication skills (whaikōrero/karanga/kōrero/karakia) and hosting skills, house building, martial arts, creative arts and crafts, caring for the natural environment, etc.

Less intentional lessons were also learnt through some experiences such as the importance of alcohol in whānau life, the gendered nature of work, the cyclical nature of violence, etc.

All of the interviewees were able to provide examples of what they considered rites of passage. These were all personal experiences from their childhood and adolescence, in some cases pre-birth and for a few there were experiences they had in late adulthood – a few spoke of practices common in their community that they were aware of in their lifetime or their parents life.

Only a few interviewees were able to share stories of how they participated in particular rituals, institutions or events that would adhere to the famous three stage (separation, transition, and reincorporation) rites of passage. However nearly all of the experiences shared were consistent with the idea of rites of passages being markers of transition from one state of being to another, of being directed by and for the benefit of the wider community and of being essential for the intergenerational transmission of cultural values and community knowledge.

The interviewees stories validate the claim of other recent research that the rite of passage process not only guides the individual’s transition to a new status, but, equally important, it creates public events that celebrate the transition and reaffirm community values, which inform and guide expectations for behaviours essential for the group’s survival.

Mr Caddie said he hopes the project will provide a useful resource for anyone interested in positive youth development, social progress and how we pass on values and knowledge between generations. While the project focused on Maori experiences, Mr Caddie believes the principles and lessons learnt can be applied across any cultural group.

“While government advisors and think-tanks like the New Zealand Institute have identified the real social and economic crisis New Zealand young people find themselves in, we think there are some solutions emerging from the stories of our old people and we need to think about how those experiences might be translated into a contemporary context. There are implications from this research for employment, enterprise, mental health, parenting, education and crime prevention. That’s the next piece of work to be done as we consider the learnings from this report for a broad range of social, cultural and economic issues.”

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Full research report available online from 1 August 2011 at: www.teorahou.org.nz

The Place Where Talent Chooses to Reside

Presentations in Gisborne this week from two very successful New Zealanders provided clear challenges for us all to support a new direction for our district.

Sir Paul Callaghan undermined conventional thinking that has suggested primary commodities, tourism, wine or even farming can be the economic saviours of the district and nation.

Professor Callaghan made two critical points that as a district we must come to terms with.

The first was to expose the complete myth that we are an egalitarian society. Income disparities have been growing exponentially and we are one of the least equal countries in the OECD. That is a problem not only for the poor but for everyone because countries with greater inequality have worse health, education and crime problems and lower productivity than more equal countries.

The second crucial fact we must acknowledge is that the country has reached the limits of exploiting our natural environment. Resource management decisions have built the wealth of the country but also polluted most low-lying waterways, native species are disappearing forever and we can’t intensify farming to earn our way to a prosperous future.

Professor Callaghan is committed to raising productivity to a level that means the country can afford world leading health care, education and environmental protections. But his message was very clear on this – we have to preserve our natural environment and biodiversity both for its own sake and if we want to attract and retain talent. As he said recently “Talent will goes where talent chooses. And, by and large, talent likes to live where lifestyle is best. The reason is simple. These sorts of businesses can be anywhere. Their markets are entirely overseas, their major component is knowledge and their cost of transport to customers is negligible.”

We heard how Ian Taylor had ideas and opportunities that could have taken him to live in lots of great places around the world, but he wanted to live in Dunedin and raise a family there. The entrepreneurs, scientists and cultural creatives that innovate and develop world-leading products now choose places that are about the lifestyle they want not the physical proximity to markets or research facilities.

There are some basics of course: clean water, reliable electricity, broadband and transport options, decent schools, participatory democracy and a vibrant cultural life all seem pretty important. In our situation some more investment in Information Communication Technology infrastructure, start-up support and greater clarity on regional development goals wouldn’t go amiss. Overall Gisborne is well positioned and already attracting talented people who choose to live in this place – close to the beach, close to marae, without traffic jams, urban sprawl and fear of neighbours.

As Professor Callaghan says, smart firms will locate where their smartest employees want to live. They may not choose large cities. There are small town examples already and there is no reason why Gisborne, Tolaga Bay or Mautuke shouldn’t be locations for high value export manufacturers. Broadband and FedEx can deliver their products to customers anywhere in the world, as fast as from Auckland, Shanghai or London.

So knowledge-based talent can be based anywhere, we can be the place of choice if we are committed to reducing income inequality (not just raising incomes), truly protecting the environment (instead of the popular ‘balancing act’ rhetoric) and continuing with the basics (quality infrastructure and public services) we already have.

Are we ready to step up to the challenge?

It was encouraging to see the level of interest last week in the report ‘Improving the Transition’ produced by the Prime Minister’s chief science advisor Peter Gluckman last week.

The report challenged successive governments ad hoc approach to addressing serious issues for young people in our country. It was particularly critical about the lack of evidential base for government funded services, a lack of evaluation and monitoring and the failure to invest in the early years. Professor Gluckman also pointed out that solutions to serious problems are going to take many electoral cycles.

In 2001 the Ministry of Justice published a report that suggested early intervention was most effective but also least accurate in identifying where resources should be targeted. The report concluded that spending smaller amounts on more young parents and their children was ultimately a better investment than trying to address the expensive options available to reduce youth offending or locking up adults.

The last Labour-led governments put serious money to initiatives like Family Start focused on the families of pre-school children, support services for teenage parents and social workers in primary schools. The effectiveness of these initiatives seems to be mixed and the evaluations were rarely made public.

The current government has committed around $100million for new services for young offenders plus tens of millions more toward Whanau Ora and the Community Response Fund. The funding for youth offending was based on pre-election promises of boot camps that contradicted all the international and New Zealand literature suggesting those approaches either don’t have any significant effect or actually increase offending. Whanau Ora and the Community Response Fund are based on noble sentiments around devolving decision-making to the community level, though both are still too amorphous to determine at this stage whether they will contribute to the transformational changes necessary in our communities.

Massive cuts to youth health services, early childhood education and support services along with recently announced funding cuts and restructuring of family violence prevention services were not prefaced by any report on their effectiveness, rather election year political priorities seem to outweigh any evidential imperatives.

With the government using their level of borrowing to justify their inability to undertake any substantial new investments (other than more than ten billion on new Roads of National Significance), they should have a clearer commitment to evidence-based and cost-effective service provision.

I look forward to seeing the recommendations that the Office of the Prime Minister comes up with from Professor Gluckman’s report (which had 11 recommendations of its own). Hopefully the proposals are followed by an action plan to address not just woefully underfunded youth mental health services but the more systemic issues relating to the politicization of public policy development, local priority-setting and accountability and the overall quality of relationships between the range of stakeholders in social development.

The Gisborne Herald Editorial last week asked whether our country is prepared to step up to the challenges identified by Professor Gluckman. My response would be that I doubt the report will be enough to make much difference to the lack of courage we have seen to date. The most significant opportunity for alcohol law reform in a generation seems to have passed us by as the government adopted none of the most effective options promoted by the Law Commission and similarly the key proposals in a Law Commission report last month on the Review of Misuse of Drugs Act seemed to have no support from any of the political parties.

At a local level I’m encouraged by the increasing community commitment to positive child and youth development and in this we can hopefully lead the country.

Local Govt Transport Congress 2011

In early February I attended the Local Government NZ Transport Congress, it was designed to determine local government transport priorities over the next three years. There were a number of interesting presentations (see three below) – Martin Mathews (CEO, Ministry of Transport) had a particularly interesting presentation focusing on upcoming challenges including peak oil and rapidly rising fuel costs, climate change and new technology – he said it was a ‘no brainer’ that these realities need to be factored into future transport planning scenarios.

The outcome of it all was LGNZ President Lawrence Yule took some leadership and decided LGNZ would establish a working group to refine LGNZ positions based on feedback coming out of the Congress. There was a strong focus on sustainable transport funding and maintenance over new build, also surprisingly for nearly all participants there was acknowledgement that in the face of rising fuel costs and reducing central government support for roading, communities might need to change their expectations and there was little call for more money and rather a focus on how to spend what is available better. There were still tensions between metro authorities focus on public transport and things like cycleways – and provincial councils focus on rural road maintenance but the divisions were apparently no where near as stark as they have been in the past. Rural councils were accepting that not every back road is going to get sealed and metro councils agreed there needed to be ongoing support for local roads that contribute a lot of value to the national economy. There was strong opposition to the Minister’s prioritising so called ‘Roads of National Significance’.

The March 2011 Quarterly Review (QR) put out by LGNZ, page 6 has a synopsis of the outcome of the Transport Congress.
Seems to a few of us who have been in touch since the Congress we helped to get some important points agreed especially the following:
– advocate for a transport network which is resilient against natural disasters, oil and energy constraints, economic impacts and societal changes;
– facilitate the development of an enduring transport ‘vision’ which has community and multi-partisan support and drives future investment choices;
These both appear to be things that regional and local authorities who care about the environment and communities need to be active in pushing because otherwise we may get things like the following outcome (which was also agreed at the forum) taking priority: ‘work to ensure transport investment matches the real needs of the economy and takes external influences into account’ (note it says economy rather than society).
The other aspect that concerns me is that there was no explicit mention, in the agreed outcomes, of land use planning being integrated with transport planning, despite it being identified at the forum.
I look forward to seeing how they come up with the working group to progress these priorities.



Increasing Equality

The Spirit Level has some exciting implications for the Gisborne District. No surprises that in our community wealth and health inequalities are more pronounced than most other places around New Zealand. Also not surprisingly, inequalities here are largely, though not exclusively, aligned with ethnicity (Europeans/Pākeha control nearly 93% of the national net worth but only comprise 83% of the population, while Māori make up over 10% but only own 4% of the wealth) and age (young people have much higher ratio of debt to assets than older people), and to a lesser extent gender.

While the factors contributing to this situation are largely historical and circumstantial, there are things that can be done today to create a more equal community if that was something we aspired to. The Spirit Level certainly provides strong evidence as to why reducing inequalities is an important goal but there is a fundamental change in values that needs to take place if equality is something we make a community goal for Gisborne.

Massey University published research last year that showed over the past 30 years New Zealanders have drifted away from our egalitarian roots and now more people than ever do not believe equality should be a goal for our society. Commentators have linked this shift with the rise of radical political ideology of free market economics that has dominated New Zealand government policy since the mid-1980s. So now we have a more unequal society where 10% of the population own more than half of the wealth, more half the population own less than 7% of wealth and a steady trend is that a decreasing proportion of people own their home. But more importantly, less people than ever think we should be aiming for a reduction in the disparities between the haves and the have nots. As Midnight Oil sang ‘the rich are getting richer, the poor get the picture’. Another trend down is that less and less of the value produced by the country is held by New Zealanders, and a increasing proportion of the population have a decreasing net value. The Treasury technocrats who have pushed what Professor Jane Kelsey dubbed ‘The New Zealand Experiment’ have been very successful in terms of shifting our thinking as a country.

While this ideology has been espoused by some outspoken local civic and business leaders for a generation, it is pleasing to see some of have moved on and a new, hopefully more enlightened set of leaders is emerging.

Tim Jackson’s book “Prosperity Without Growth” and Michael Shuman’s “Going Local” have been influencing my thinking on economic policy and his recommendations for local and national economies are closely aligned with the thesis of The Spirit Level authors.

I am very interested in looking at how Council policies on rating for example has been used over the past ten years in a way that may have the effect of shifting more of the rates burden onto those who can least afford it. I think we should also be looking carefully at how public policies can make it easier or harder for big box retailers owned by foreigners to setup here and effectively shut down our mainstreet’s family-owned businesses.

I think a fair and active democracy requires that we try to give everyone an opportunity to make positive contributions to the community, fairness doesn’t mean we have to treat everyone the same. If people live in different circumstances then treating them differently is justified. The level of opposition to the Voter Participation Project focused on neighbourhoods that have poor election turnout was a great case in point. Either opposers have a very base understanding of what it means to be fair or they were motivated by some irrational fear or bias against trying to encourage poor people to vote in an informed manner.

While The Spirit Level has had it’s detractors and critics (largely politically motivated some claim), the authors have responded resoundingly to questions raised and a global movement is developing aimed at raising public and political awareness about the benefits of reducing the gap between the wealthy and poorest citizens within a country and community. The Equality Trust established by the authors of The Spirit Level has a guide for local groups and I would be keen to hear from anyone interested in forming a Gisborne group to look more closely at the current situation on things like wage ratios in local businesses and implications for Council policy positions that do or not include increasing equality as a goal.

Wilkinson and Pickett, The Spirit Level authors, have clearly demonstrated through peer-reviewed empirical evidence that the more equal a society is, the happier, healthier and less stressed, better educated and less likely to be a victim of crime everyone is. I’m as keen as anyone else to get beyond the ‘them’ and ‘us’ mentality that has grown with the increasing gap between rich and poor, can we find others who want to explore these opportunities?

Neighbours Day Everyday…

I met a wonderful couple this week, grandparents with huge hearts for their family and for other local families. Born into poor circumstances themselves, this couple know what it is like to really struggle. They have tragedies in their own extended family to deal with but wanted to know how they could help Kaiti kids reach their potential.

These grandparents want to connect with other people their age and younger ones to talk about how their generation can make more useful contributions to young families in Gisborne.

We talked a bit about Tairāwhiti Positive Aging Trust and other groups that support seniors to be active in wider community life. Healthy churches, marae and sports clubs are still great places for intergenerational relationships to be nurtured and life lessons passed on to younger people.

Neighbours Day this weekend is an opportunity for us to think about the people we live close to but may not feel close to. When we reestablish trust and care within our streets it has been proven to reduce crime, increase safety, school attendance, health and happiness. Every one of us should know that when we have reason to worry, celebrate or grieve, someone will notice and someone will care. Many people in our communities don’t have that support and it is so encouraging to hear when residents are willing to make an effort to be that special someone for a neighbour or family in need.

I also met with a young man this week who is concerned about neighbourhood safety and, with signatures of support from everyone in his street, has been trying to get Council to install speed inhibitors to prevent another crash that could injure or kill a child. Whether or not he succeeds with his campaign for the speed bumps or chicanes (I certainly hope he does), it is awesome to see young people taking responsibility for making their neighbourhood a safe and enjoyable place for those who live there and visit the area.

It has been heartening to see the people willing to make the effort to present their ideas and concerns to Council committees and public meetings over the last few weeks.

Submissions on the Draft Annual Plan are due by 31 March. Whether or not the local stuff you care about is mentioned in the Plan, it is an essential part of the democratic process and you can make a submission about anything you are passionate about.

In the future I’m keen to look at extending the influence residents and (direct and indirect) ratepayers have on the Council budget. Participatory budgeting is a small but energetic movement through which ordinary people directly decide how a portion of their municipal budget is spent. Pioneered in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1990 as a democratisation strategy, the process has spread to over 1,200 cities around the world. From Cologne in Germany to Entebbe in Uganda, the concept is giving more people more control over how their tax dollars are spent locally. An interesting discovery through the models developed to date is that as residents spend time deliberating on the budget with their neighbours they start making decisions based on the collective good rather than individual interests.

Perhaps on Neighbours Day this weekend you could have a conversation about what would be the collective good for your street and the district as a whole? Oh, and please let us know what you decide.

Happy New Year

So there goes 2010, and as 2011 rolls in we see petrol going over $2.00/litre in town, which probably means $2.50 up the Coast. This year the International Energy Agency referred to Peak Oil in the past tense, saying output will never again get to the “all-time peak of 70 million barrels per day reached in 2006.” Global demand for oil is increasing exponentially and the cost of production is going up as the stuff gets harder to extract.

The good news is that while the New Zealand government has acknowledged the need to plan for life beyond cheap oil, so has a growing number of Gisborne people. Planning to adapt our lifestyles seems like a better strategy than having change forced on us.

Local residents face similar challenges if we like the lifestyle the district offers. Gisborne District Council is an entity we pay money to that ensures decent roads, safe drinking water, some agreement about who can do what where and the provision of other basic services essential to maintaining our quality of life.

There has been a lot of column space dedicated recently to complaints about rates rises for some sectors of the community and suggestions we should cut Council services or delay maintenance and replacement work.

Despite all the table thumping, the good news is that a significant proportion of ratepayers will have a reduction in their rates and the vast majority will probably have an increase of less than $2 per week.

With the Reserve Bank predicting inflation of five percent next year, we should thank staff and the former Council for ensuring the average rates rises are well below inflation. While farmers and some businesses complain about the rises, we should compare them with last year when residential property owners in the city were hardest hit and faced increases in the poorest parts of town of over 16%. So we all have to do our share and while legislation prevents rates from being used as a mechanism for wealth redistribution, if you have a multi million dollar property that is also a business, you expect to contribute a bit more than the average.

As a recent editorial pointed out, Gisborne is no longer in the highest bracket for rates in the country and while we have high levels of poverty we also have a lean Council, expensive rural roading and flood protection infrastructure to maintain in the face of decreasing central government support.

Gisborne has 360,000 hectares of grassland, 150,000 hectares of planted trees, 40,000 hectares of native bush and 9,000 hectares of horticulture.

Gisborne also has huge areas of ‘Maori land’ a lot of which is termed ‘unproductive’ (because it’s not being intensively farmed or forested) and ‘unrateable’ (because the multiple owners are either deceased or impossible to track down to recover rates from).

If a fraction of the time, passion and resources committed by councillors, staff and lobby groups to cutting Council services was redirected into developing a strategy for attracting long-term residents to the district, we could have a really effective campaign.

Part of such a strategy should focus on attracting Maori with connections to Te Tairawhiti to come home to work and build on the ancestral land everyone seems so proud of.

We also have a great opportunity to profile our community as a potential new home for the thousands of visitors here over summer. We have no traffic jams (except at New Years!), no air pollution, no crowded waves, no in-fill housing, no crass multinational strip malls… in fact, there’s not much here except a beautiful environment, laid back lifestyles and a lot of very friendly people.

Knowledge-Based Economy

I’ve made some comments in the last couple of days (in my first Council committee meetings) about the need for us to put more emphasis on knowledge-based economic opportunities rather than just relying on low value, high volume exports and/or processing. I was asked to elaborate, so here are some ways Council might be involved in this issue:
(a) when Councillors speak in public on what we individually or collectively see the future prospects for the local economy are I think we have an opportunity, maybe even a responsibility, to help the community imagine what could be rather than just what is obvious;
(b) in our advocacy on behalf of the region and Council planning processes we could do everything we can to ensure that things like ultra-fast broadband, secure power supply, light industrial zones and central government investment in research and development are secured as quickly and adequately as possible – I know much of this Council has been involved with but I’m not sure the commitment, particularly from Councillors, has been as strategic or sustained as it needs to be if we want to be better positioned sooner rather than later;
(c) we can partner with other key stakeholders – like the Chamber, Polytech, runanga, NZTE and others – to develop a world-leading campaign to proactively let knowledge-based NZ and foreign businesses know all the reasons why Gisborne is the place they should be located – we have 20,000 mostly upper-middle class, educated students/graduates pouring into the district every year to party and it sounds like this year may be the first time they will get something tangible that could influence their thinking about relocating here for work, lifestyle, family, etc. The problem is there is no well thought through, comprehesive campaign that has our whole community buy-in. Someone asked who would fund such a thing – I think there are entities around that would invest in such a strategy if it was properly developed, based evidence of what has worked elsewhere and had wide local support. Tauranga struck it lucky last year when a small lab there discovered a new way of creating Titanium compounds – that team had central government support and is now looking like a $10b knowledge-based industry that will be located in their region for as long as they want it (nevermind where the Titanium comes from); and
(d) our regional expertise is growing food, farming and increasingly forestry (with still a fair bit of unique culture and lifestyle on the Coast that has some real tourist potential if it can be managed carefully) – food production is a massive global issue – we could encourage government R&D investment in this region – there is hundreds of millions available in multi-year research grants and there are a few groups here that have accessed some in partnership with CRI’s, etc. This is a major interest for runanga too – but our region probably has one of the lowest rates of access to this funding which in turn could be the basis for whole new industries and technical knowledge that can exported around the world.
Ideally an Economic Development Agency would lead this kind of thinking and suggest ways for GDC to get in behind bids, campaigns, etc. But in the absence of an EDA I think we should be working with ECT, runanga, horticulture/agriculture/forestry industries, the Ministry for Research Science & Technology and Foundation for Science, Research & Technology on some plans to establish at least one maybe two specialist research centres here in the next five years.
There are some other opportunities that I have been discussing with local stakeholders like the government’s interest in establishing NZ as an international funds administration hub for the Asia-Pacific region and their expressed intention, subject to a report recently submitted by an independent working group of experts that advises on legislative implications, to find a provincial centre that could be the incubator for this new industry which would require hundreds if not thousands of clerical positions – but also needs reliable electricity and high speed broadband. Not a highly educated workforce or the highest paying jobs, but well above what our average wages are now and some significant population growth potential to spread the rates burden (and would no doubt bring some new challenges).
Anyway, those are just a few of my quick thoughts on the subject – I hope we can keep progressing the conversation further.

Profile & Priorities

Te Poho-o-Rawiri, Waitangi Day, 2010

I am standing for Council because I want to encourage much more public participation in discussions and decisions about the future for our communities. Diversity around the council table is important so the district leadership truly reflects the people they serve and we all move ahead together.

I moved to Gisborne with my wife Natasha Koia in 1998 to provide care for her elderly grandparents. We still live with her grandmother and now have our own family with two young children.

I have a degree in communication design, a post-graduate teaching qualification and have worked as a graphic designer, teacher, researcher and community organiser. My research and project management business was established in 2004 with local, national and international clients including the Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Education and The World Bank. I currently hold governance roles with the Board of Trustees for Waikirikiri School and Presbyterian Support East Coast, and I served three years on the board of the NZ Council for International Development.

More information about my priorities, track record and a list of respected locals who endorse my election are available at: http://www.manu.org.nz

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Question 1. Rates

Our region currently has huge infrastructure, transport and energy costs, low incomes and limited employment options. I would support Council appointment of a skilled advocate to influence central government so that any impact of national regulations are fully understood and compensated for by central government not ratepayers.

GDC needs to get much smarter at securing external resourcing for major projects. We need much more sophisticated negotiation skills to make the case for private and public investment in local infrastructure.

We should establish a ‘50,000 Taskforce’ with the goal of reaching this population by 2020. Design and implement an aggressive national and international marketing campaign to attract world class talent to relocate to the region bringing expertise and increased earnings.

– – – – –

Question 2. Infrastructure

Cycling and walking needs to be made much easier and safer than it is at present.

We need to urgently establish alternatives to more logging trucks in the city. We need the companies benefitting to pay for the constant road upgrades required.

The rail needs a rescue plan in place by April – based on a robust study of the options not rushed reports.

We need ultra-fast free broadband to every home by 2012.

We need a bylaw requiring all rental homes to pass a Warrant of Fitness to reduce the negative health, education, financial and social outcomes from substandard housing.

The community needs to think about and decide how we best support local businesses and how much big box retail we want in our town. We should take a different development path to places like Tauranga.

– – – – –

Question 3. Council involvement with economic and community development

The sobering social and economic issues in our region are not just statistics – they have faces and names as friends, family and neighbours.

Council doesn’t need to lead economic development but needs to ensure it is smart and takes into account potential impacts on social, environmental and cultural wellbeing. Similarly council doesn’t need to lead community development but needs to work with residents and other stakeholders to ensure communities lead their own development.

Local authorities should have a key role in coordinating central government funding coming into our region for social and economic development to make sure it is lined up with local priorities. I will encourage council support for residents groups at neighbourhood and village level to determine local priorities and development plans.

Question 4. Council provision of facilities and events for young people

Council doesn’t need to provide these directly, but should work with young people, community organisations and businesses to develop more opportunities for young people. This could include computer clubhouses, homework centres, all ages music venues, business incubators, community gardens, and sports and recreation facilities.

Young people are full citizens and Council should provide a non-voting seat for the Tairawhiti Youth Council around the Council table and on all committees.

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Question 5. Biggest environmental problems

Significant challenges facing the district include farm and beach erosion, waterway sedimentation, agro-chemical pollution, minerals exploration, native habitat destruction, increased risk from extreme weather and our dependence on oil-based energy.

However one of the most important issues is the need to secure a collective commitment to adjust our lifestyles to ensure future generations are also able to enjoy the abundance we have been blessed with.

Council should lead by example – using more solar energy, providing loans paid off by rates for solar water heating, switching to hybrid vehicles, using bicycles around the CBD and planting vegetables in public gardens.

Council should facilitate more environmental education and community action and establish a regional Environmental Forum with statutory agencies, businesses and non-government organisations to identify, plan and monitor action to address priority environmental issues.

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Gisborne East Coast Council of Social Services sent a questionnaire to all GDC candidates – these are my responses to their questions:

– – – – –

1. Do you think Gisborne District Council should continue to facilitate the process for desired community-wide social, economic, environmental and cultural outcomes even if it was not a requirement in legislation?

(a) YES – it’s a no-brainer… GDC is the only district-wide, public institution that can coordinate these aspirations, if GDC does not do this then no other organisation is going to and we will have a much more fragmented community as a result.

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2. Which community organisations have you had active involvement with in the past five years?

  • Waikirikiri School, Board of Trustees (Chairperson)
  • Gisborne Cycling Advisory Group (Chairperson)
  • Tairawhiti Housing Advisory Group (Convenor)
  • Presbyterian Support East Coast (Board Member)
  • Whanau Ora (Tairawhiti Regional Advisory Group Member)
  • Te Ora Hou Te Tairawhiti Trust (Trustee)
  • Gisborne Council of Social Services (Executive Member)
  • Tairawhiti Men Against Violence (Foundation Member)
  • Gisborne Chamber of Commerce (Executive Member)
  • Rongo-i-te-Kai Marae (Treasurer)
  • Te Puna Reo o Puhi Kaiti (Whanau Committee Member)
  • Te Toka o Te Kokonga Te Kohanga Reo (Whanau Committee Member)
  • Council for International Development (National Board Member)
  • Tairawhiti Youth Workers Collective (Chairperson)
  • National Youth Workers Network Aotearoa (National Working Party Member)

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3. Do you support the idea of a bylaw requiring a Warrant of Fitness (to ensure basic health and safety requirements are met) before any property is rented in the District?

(a) YES – I have been promoting the idea through the Tairawhiti Housing Advisory Group

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4. Would you support a proposal to require a permit to consume alcohol consumption in public places?

(a) YES – especially around parks, reserves and beaches

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5. Do you support the proposal for Tairawhiti Youth Voice to have a non-voting seat on Gisborne District Council?

(a) YES – this is an excellent proposal and would require some ongoing support from GDC staff and local youth workers.

– – – – –

6. Overall do you think GDC is effective in involving people affected in decisions that affect them?

(b) NO – but there have been some real improvements since the new CEO has been in the job and new managers for Engineering & Works and Community Planning & Development.

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7. How confident are you that GDC has effectively implemented the Disability Strategy?

(b) CONFIDENT – there have been a number of practical actions taken over the past few years such as installing ramps and fixing the crossings near roundabouts, kneeling buses, larger more obvious mobility parking spaces in the CBD, etc. but much more work needs to be done including a pedestrian crossing on Childers Rd near the CBD, responding to the needs of residents with disabilities in rural areas and an audit of Council facilities in relation to the needs of children and young people with disabilities.

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Rail Report Requires Realistic Review

The highest railway viaduct in New Zealand is the 97 m high Mohaka viaduct spanning the Mohaka River about half way between Napier and Wairoa. This bridge is of steel girder construction, is 270 m long and was opened in 1937.

Organisers of last week’s symposium in Gisborne on the future of the Gisborne-Napier railway say the Hawkes Bay Regional Transport Committee report released yesterday does not provide sufficient analysis and an independent study on future scenarios needs to be commissioned.

“We still need a comprehensive review of future options for the line that takes into account social, safety and environmental benefits as well as freight volumes and tourism options. The paper from yesterday’s meeting will help in terms of the additional market information, but the relative roles of the modes into the future still deserve some in depth analysis” said Transition Tairawhiti spokesperson Manu Caddie.

“The paper presents facts, in some cases in more depth than we have had before, but it seems to take each mode as it is, and assumes that the relative role of road, rail and port will stay much the same. There is no recognition that the future traffic need not go by road, nor through the port. It could go by rail and save millions of dollars and many lives in the process.”

Mr Caddie believes there will be competition for the future traffic between rail, road, and coastal shipping. The quantities the paper suggests could well make the railway viable, but if the region wants to have a railway line, it has to use it and not assume that road or the port gets the first crack at the traffic.

“There is no analysis in the report of the ability (without extra expense and environmental impact) of the port to carry the increase in traffic. Nor is there any analysis of the impact of extra tonnage on the roads in safety terms, though there are figures provided  that suggest that the roads are not particularly safe even with current traffic levels.”

The report commissioned after a meeting in Gisborne two months ago with Kiwirail CEO Jim Quinn, regional mayors and Chambers of Commerce, calculates the social cost value of road accidents in the region as $182 million.

“This is a staggering figure and we can expect many more lives to be lost as truck numbers dramatically increase, their length increases and their stopping distance requires an additional 20% on what existing trucks need.”

Hamilton City Council has an outright ban on allowing 53+tonne trucks on their roads, other than State Highways, until they know precisely the costs it will impose on the ratepayers. Mr Caddie suggested Gisborne could do the same, particularly considering the exclusion of truck trailers from fuel tax increases last year.

“The trucking industry says road repair costs will be reduced as the impact is less with the weight spread across more axles but we know the number of trucks coming into the city and on the Gisborne-Napier route is going to rapidly increase over the next ten years if we don’t use the rail.”

“Coastal shipping has real potential, but there are some major investments required in the Port that I’m not sure residents will be happy about ECT making on our behalf and while electric trains are common will we revert to sailing ships when the price of oil jumps?”

Mr Caddie believes the short timeframe in which the report had to be completed did not permit the consults time to do the in-depth analysis to make robust recommendations on the best way forward.

“There are a few options that haven’t been looked at seriously yet and we need some decent work undertaken on what existing importers and exporters are prepared to pay to transport their goods in and out under different economic environments.”

Mr Caddie said the regions should investigate with Kiwirail and the government the potential to provide the service at cost to get the volumes up.

“Two thirds of the $2m annual operating costs quoted by Kiwirail is depreciation for replacement costs, so a case could be made to the government to provide a subsidy of $660,000 for 10 years to cover basic maintenance and put the rest aside. If we don’t manage to get the volumes required in that period then they don’t need to worry about replacement costs and they can use the $13.5m saved somewhere else. If it is viable within 10 years then allocate the funds for replacement costs and everyone is happy.”

The Rotorua line has been mothballed for nine years and there is now substantial work required to re-open the line. Not a quick or cheap job, cost estimates range from $10-15m. Jon Reeves from the Campaign for Better Transport estimated, based on the Rotorua line assessment, it could cost over $100m to reopen the Gisborne-Napier line if it is mothballed.

Mr Caddie says the report also has some obvious gaps such as the true transit times of HCV’s (trucks).

“While the government has committed $40m to build a viaduct over the Matahorua Gorge to save less than a minute of travel time on the three hour trip, they can’t find similar funds to ensure we have rail access for the next 20 years.”

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Big Society – Big Community

David Cameron re-launched his Big Idea this week. The new British prime minister says the ‘Big Society’ concept is about empowering communities, redistributing power and fostering a culture of volunteerism. In a speech in Liverpool, Cameron said community groups should be able to run post offices, libraries, transport services and shape housing projects. While one motive for the Tory version of ‘people power’ is obviously to help lower Britain’s debt which is spiralling out of control, I think there is some substance in the plan.

Modern society has turned many aspects of our lives into commodities. Citizens have been replaced by consumers and nearly all our relationships are mediated by the market. In the market-based society we earn money to pay other people to care for our young and elderly, we become slaves to debt, and outsource our responsibilities. Families become less important and effective and neighbourhoods lose their ability to function properly.

Gisborne has much to offer the rest of the world, and it’s not just a wall of wood, wine or wool. What we can offer is a healthy model of true community – and we are not too far from manifesting that goal.

I was so encouraged to see the big turnout this week to a presentation by historian Jane Luiten on the history of local government on the East Coast. The diversity of our community was represented in the 60 or so people from all walks of life who came to hear some challenging stories from our local history. The interest in this topic from young and old, Maori and Pakeha and new immigrants gave me a deep sense of optimism for the future of our community.

There are a few simple truths that citizens of Gisborne can hold on to if we want to be a place where more people love to live. Our neighbourhoods are the primary source of our health as a community. Whether we are safe and secure in our neighbourhoods is largely within our control. In our neighbourhoods, towns and villages we have the power to build a resilient economy. We are local people who must raise our children.

We live in a democracy, a political system that gives us the freedom to choose a common vision and then make choices that bring that vision into being. But the institutions we look to, whether they are government and its agencies, businesses and the ‘free’ market or civil society organisations cannot make us into a community. Only families and neighbourhoods acting together can create a sense of belonging, unconditional care and acceptance, trust and support.

Community organiser John McKnight suggests a community becomes powerful when three things are happening:

The Giving of Gifts: The gifts of people in our neighbourhood are boundless, every single person has something of value to contribute to our wellbeing.

The Presence of Association: Through association our gifts can be shared, celebrated and magnified and become productive.

The Compassion of Hospitality: There are no strangers here, only friends who haven’t met – we welcome the gifts of new people and need to share our own with them.

The characteristics of the Big Society may also be those of an abundant, healthy community: kindness, generosity, cooperation, forgiveness and the acceptance of fallibility. These virtues aren’t delivered by the market, or by government or local body organisations. They come from within us and could become what makes Gisborne a fantastic place to live.

Universal Access for Gisborne?

A recent survey of households in Kaiti found that 90% have a mobile phone and more than one in three have broadband internet in the home. Gisborne residents are obviously committed to using new technology to help with communication, education and involvement in society.

Given the isolation of our region relative to the big cities and overseas markets, access to high speed internet access and affordable information technology should be the centre-piece of any plan for a prosperous region.

High-speed wireless internet access for all residents is becoming a top priority for local authorities around the world.  Whanganui District Council has just subsidised free wireless to two low income neighbourhoods in their town and in Canada advertising is being used to sponsor wireless access to poor neighbourhoods. Given the high access rates charged by the telecommunications companies in New Zealand, electronic infrastructure is quickly being recognised as a public good that requires democratic control rather than just private owners.

Gisborne District councilors wouldn’t even allow staff to setup a Facebook page for the Annual Plan this year. Thankfully Corporate Affairs Manager Douglas Burt has championed Council involvement in broadband initiatives and projects like Computers in Homes and getting broadband to all our rural communities.

Bristol City Council over the past twelve months has been using Participatory Budgeting, including online ways for citizens to set the city spending. The council put aside funds for three city wards to allocate spending through an online discussion.

To carry out the project, the council used Open Source (free) software which enables residents to suggest ideas for what the money should be spent on, and allows other citizens to vote for the ideas they support. While the final decision on spending can’t legally rest with ‘the internet’, the council committed to stick by the decisions made by participants, so long as they are legal.

Half way through the pilot project results are showing that 130 people had registered on the site, a participation rate that is much larger than the numbers who usually turn up to public consultation meetings.

The age of participants has moved down about twenty years in age compared with attendees at traditional public meetings, showing 40% of participants are under the age of 40.

The site asked people who responded to state their location, and this has shown that most respondents come from the three wards in which the funding will be spent. So people are engaging in their local area, but others are having their say too, just as intended, especially given one of the wards covers the city centre, used by pretty much all residents from time to time.

Gisborne District Council will be interested to know that a sizable proportion of the ideas submitted in Bristol turned out not to need funding at all, and could be undertaken right away. These ranged from some ideas actually being issues that could be passed on directly to council officers for action, to users being able to help each other. In one instance, a user suggested it would be good to fund having bus timetables on your mobile phone, and another replied saying that they’d already worked out how to do it, and gave instructions on how to do so!

The council has thus benefitted from another channel for receiving customer feedback as well as encouraging the wisdom of crowds, in addition to the benefits hoped for by the project itself.

Universal access to high speed broadband is fundamental to transforming the economic performance of Gisborne but a key question is whether or not prospective councilors and local voters consider this infrastructure essential for the future of our region.

Gisborne-Napier Rail Fact Sheet

A document I compiled with assistance from the Campaign for Better Transport and distributed at today’s public meeting including Hawkes Bay mayors, Regional Transport Committee and Chamber of Commerce.


  • The cost of maintaining the rail line is $2 million per year.
  • Roading is far more heavily subsidised than rail.[1]
  • The Ministry of Transport did a study in 2005 (currently being updated), which concluded that trucks only meet 56% of their costs while motorists pay 64%, buses pay 68% and rail 77%.[2]
  • Roading is NOT self funding through user charges. The shortfall is $1.5 billion per year for state highways, plus ratepayers fund local roads. So any official that claims that is completely incorrect.[3] That shortfall, made up by taxpayers, is already several times what is proposed to be spent on the rail operation and is far from the only taxpayer subsidy given to roads.
  • The government is planning to spend $21 billion on roads, local road networks are also heavily subsidised through local authority rates (about another $1 billion a year).[4]
  • There are the greater “externalities” of road transport that should also be factored in: road trauma ($3.5 billion), health problems caused by air pollution, noise, loss of amenity, severance of communities and damage to the environment (including greenhouse gas emissions, which have increased by more than 70 per cent since 1990).[5]
  • The cost of maintaining roads (excluding state highways) in the Gisborne region alone is $19.15M (incl. ratepayers contribution of $7.85M).[6]
  • The government will happily sink millions into the Hawkes Bay airport run way lengthening even though there are no airlines guaranteeing to bring in larger planes… or even if there is a market for larger aircraft at the airport. So if the government will take a gamble with that, why not invest in setting up a successful tourist rail service in the region?[7]
  • The government is spending over $40million straightening a short piece of the Napier-Gisborne highway which will result in a net travelling time gain of less than 60 seconds over a 3 hour journey time.[8]
  • Investing $2-10 million on the line would provide the Gisborne region with a line with higher increased speeds for trains. That includes some work on two tunnels (KiwiRail mentioned cost of around $200,000) to allow Hi Cube containers to be moved on rail instead of road (the trucking lobby will be worried about this).


  • Anne Tolley received a personal campaign donation of $5,000 from the trucking lobby group Road Transport Forum.[9]
  • The National government is committed to support the trucking industry which is one of the Party’s biggest campaign donors.[10]


  • A number of local roading contractors will lose their jobs shortly[11]. Having the rail line functional again would mean immediate and long term maintenance and logistics jobs for the region.


  • Until Tranzrail killed off wagon loads out of Gisborne (1999-2001) the line had two return freight trains a day and one a day in weekends.[12]
  • Hikurangi Forest Farms new mill may generate enough product to fill 200 wagons a week and other exporters are also interested in the option of rail if it is competitively priced so there could be more than one ‘anchor’ client and the line shouldn’t depend just on HFF.
  • The train speed between these two cities is the same as trucks (and often better due to poor weather, ice and washouts on the state highway).
  • KiwiRail could run the line to the local business conditions. KiwiRail should have a sales manager based in Gisborne and Napier. They should load single wagons if clients only require that. They should have some contracting trucks to pick up freight from clients premises.
  • One train can carry the equivalent of 280 trucks or more. While road vehicle efficiency stagnated over the past 30 years, trains fuel efficiency has increased 104%.[13]
  • Currently the line has one freight train a week, sometimes two.


  • It is the most scenic route in the North Island as the line runs along the East Coast, high on cliffs for much of the trip.
  • There is current demand for Gisborne-Napier passenger services and a number of bus services run between Gisborne-Napier (with trains going onwards to Palmerston North and Wellington) there really is no reason why passenger services could not be re-started.
  • Passenger rail demand on some lines has increased over 50% in the past 12 months according to Kiwirail figures.
  • Next year Tranz Scenic will have a number of spare large window carriages as new rolling stock arrives for the South Island long distance services).
  • Passenger rail has many advantages over buses – the scenery is far better (that’s why the Tranz Alpine train contributed to the end of bus services between Christchurch & Greymouth); on-train buffet car, toilet facilities, larger seats and tables for working while travelling, larger windows and open air viewing platforms; rail line has been less susceptible to closures/washouts than the highway.
  • A daily passenger train could also be used to haul some freight wagons (as the Northerner did until the 1990’s, and many trains do overseas) – this would mean more freight options for Gisborne clients.
  • Gisborne can benefit in more ways by keeping the rail line open and running better freight services. The passenger services will be the cream on the top to bring the region forward to more tourists, both domestically and internationally. Perhaps even Hawkes Bay airport would benefit with future airlines connecting from Australia, then passengers taking the scenic train service to Gisborne? The Tranz Alpine service was once almost about to close until one entrepreneurial staff member at NZ Railways came up with a tourist train. 20 years later it carries the most passengers out of all long distance trains! The same could be done on the Gis-Napier line thanks to its scenic opportunities.
  • The Dunedin City Council owned Tairei Gorge Railway, based on a scenic branch line out of Dunedin which was threatened with closure in 1990. It is now a highly popular and successful operation.

[1] NZTA report, Oct 2009

[2] www.transport.govt.nz/research/understandingtransportcostsandchargesuttc/

[3] NZ Herald, 22 June 2010

[4] ibid

[5] ibid

[6] GDC Annual Plan 2010-2011

[7] http://alturl.com/e2cf

[8] www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO0902/S00145.htm

[9] www4.thestandard.org.nz/nats-still-involved-in-dodgy-donations/

[10] http://alturl.com/ys3z

[11] The Gisborne Herald, 21 June 2010

[12] The business case of using KiwiRail only for bulk freight came about during the failed “Beard Era” of chairmanship of Tranzrail (1999-2001). Beard, at great cost of traffic and revenues to Tranzrail, closed down freight terminals and sidings to factories throughout NZ. Just a few years earlier under chairmanship of Ed Burkhardt Tranzrail built the Gisborne line up to 20+ trains per week.

[13] http://alturl.com/j52k