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Closure of Gisborne Rail a disaster for the region


October 4th 2012

Closure of Gisborne Rail a disaster for the future of the region.

Roger Dickie spokesman for the Kyoto Forestry Association and promoter of a large number of investment forests in the Gisborne region says that residents of the Gisborne region should be very angry with the National Government and minister Joyce for their shortsighted decision not to support the rail link.

Dickie says that economic and employment growth will be hugely stalled by the loss of the rail line and by association the social infrastructure of the region will be severely impeded. He already knows of one significant business that has canned plans to invest in the Gisborne region because of the forecast and now confirmed closure of the rail line. Unfortunately this will continue to happen and the residents of the region will never even know that they have missed out on future growth says Dickie.

Dickie said his forests are only about 6% of the forests in the entire Gisborne region but perhaps 20% of those forests south and west of Gisborne that would move at least some of their product towards Napier. Mr Dickie estimated that in six to eight years time his company would have between 80 and 120 truck movements per day on the Gisborne-Napier Road. When combined with other forest owners, that could be 500 to 600 movements per day or about one every 1 1/2 minutes during a 12 hour day. A very significant number of these truck movements could easily go by rail.

Dickie pointed out that the efficiency of rail from a fuel and environmental perspective was well known. Proof of the savings it could offer was the railing of logs from Wanganui to Napier (a similar distance to Gisborne -Napier). After allowing for the trucking to railhead costs, rail on the Wanganui-Napier link was $7.00 per tonne cheaper than trucking.

The Gisborne port is the second biggest log export port in New Zealand but unfortunately it is also by far the most expensive port to use in New Zealand having the highest wharfage and log storage charges in New Zealand by a margin of 40%. These exorbitant charges will be costing the region investment and jobs. As well, it is well known that shipping lines only use certain ports in the country and it is necessary for many exporters to move their product to Napier to meet those ships. Future growth of export industries in the Gisborne region will be severely curtailed by the loss of this rail link.

Dickie says if one looks at what has made countries like Germany and USA so dynamic and successful is their fully developed transport infrastructure. The Chinese have a good and significantly developing infrastructure to allow them to move goods and services efficiently around their country.

The building and maintenance of infrastructure is a long term plan that needs central government involvement in a country like New Zealand with low population and isolation in many productive areas such as Gisborne. The National Government have totally abrogated their responsibilities in this regard and it is unfortunate that politicians in this country take a short term view revolving round three yearly election cycles rather than the more mature and developed thinking of successful countries overseas.

Dickie thinks that this is a classic case of the silent majority sitting back and doing nothing because they think the closure of the rail link will not affect them. But everyone in the Gisborne region needs to realise the loss of this important economic link will affect them by way of less jobs for their siblings, less growth in the region and a diminished social infrastructure, not to mention a nightmare trip to drive to Napier unless the trip is made in the middle of the night or weekends.

Dickie has been astonished to find that one major employer in the Gisborne region actively lobbied the Government ministers Brownlee, Carter, Joyce and Hon Anne Tolley supporting the rail closure presumably on the basis that less competition meant cheaper product for their processing facility. As well, there has been discussion on the use of increased vehicle weights and dimensions (IVWD) trucks. These giant rigs will carry about 30% more weight but require upgraded roads, bridges, culverts etc. The congestion situation on SH 2 will hardly be improved by the use of these large units.

Dickie said in summary there are a huge number of reasons why the rail link should be retained and only one (short term operational losses) why it should be closed.

END

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