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Public Views Sought On Rail Joint Venture

19 December, 2007

Public Views Sought On Rail Joint Venture

The public is being asked for its views on plans for a joint venture to secure land for a proposed Marsden Pt rail corridor.

The Northland Regional Council and rail infrastructure agency ONTRACK recently announced plans for a 50/50 joint venture to share the costs of acquiring land for the approximately 16km long corridor.

ONTRACK hopes to within the next several months formally designate the land; a process that would legally identify it as being required for the corridor and safeguard its future availability.

However, Regional Council Chairman Mark Farnsworth says before that can happen, the Council must ask the public for its views, which it plans to do through a longer-than-usual six week consultation period that will run until February next year (subs: Feb 2008).

He says the rail corridor designation proposal is nothing new and the NRC had earlier this year already publicly signalled its intention - through an amendment to its Long Term Council Community Plan - to negotiate with about 20 Bream Bay landowners to try to secure the necessary land.

“The wider community has already had the chance in recent months to comment on the broad thrust of Council’s plans through our Annual Plan process and the majority of those who made submissions supported them. But under the Local Government Act, if the 50/50 joint-venture goes ahead as proposed, it will create something called a ‘Council Controlled Organisation’ (CCO) and legally, this must be consulted on separately.”

Mr Farnsworth says this would usually involve a month-long consultation period, but in a bid to ensure as many people as possible had the opportunity to comment – and recognising the approaching Christmas-New Year break - the Council had decided to extend the consultation period by an extra two weeks. It will now run from Saturday, 22 December until Friday, 1 February.

He says a full Statement of Proposal on the proposed joint venture can be obtained from the Council’s website www.nrc.govt.nz/jointventure or from any Regional Council office. Alternatively, people can telephone toll-free to request one on 0800 002 004.

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Mr Farnsworth says if the joint-venture does go ahead, land purchased by the Regional Council for the corridor would be transferred to the new CCO.

The CCO would then lease out the land “pending completion of the designation process and the tendering and awarding of the construction contract for the railway line at some time in the future”.

He says income received from leasing the land will be used to repay the money borrowed to buy it and potential leaseholders could include current owners/users if they wished.

Meanwhile, Mr Farnsworth says the Council’s amended LTCCP had indicated the Regional Council could spend up to $3.34M (nett) on the designation process over 10 years and the cost to ratepayers could not exceed that figure without further public consultation.

ENDS

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