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National rail strategy or 700 truck movements

26 March 2001

National rail strategy or 700 truck movements a day for Northland?

Green co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons today said the need for an integrated national rail strategy was illustrated by the new Whangarei port which, unless it is connected to rail, will bring 700 truck movements per day through Northland's rural communities around the area.

The new port being built at Marsden Point is designed primarily for exporting logs and timber products from the Northland forests. The next closest port suitable for exporting logs would be Tauranga.

"What is needed is a short new spur track to join the new Whangarei port to the main North / South line. While this would only be around 15 kilometres of new track the significance of this stretch of track for the whole of Northland cannot be overstated," said Ms Fitzsimons.

"However while nobody disputes the importance of building this new stretch of rail, the demand for it comes at a time when Tranz Rail are heading in completely the opposite direction. They are reluctant to invest in new infrastructure and are talking of closing some sections of line.

"This is precisely why we are calling on the Government not to deal with New Zealand's rail network in a piecemeal fashion. There must be a co-ordinated national approach that addresses the infrastructural and economic needs of all the regions, as well as the passenger services in the main cities."

Ms Fitzsimons said the volume of logs and timber passing through the old Whangarei port had increased dramatically in recent years and projections showed this increase was going to continue.

"If Northland's logs have to be carried by truck because there is no rail access to the new port, the economic viability of the whole Northland rail system will be in jeopardy.

"I believe there have been talks between the local district and regional councils, Carter Holt Harvey and the new port of Whangarei on the issue of this spur line, but discussions have stalled," she said.

"Unlocking it quickly is essential. This port will be one of the key economic mainstays of the whole Northland region and it simply must be connected to the rail network. If it is not hooked up, hundreds of logging trucks will be moving on the Northland roads and converging on Marsden Point.

"This scenario would be very bad news for the people, the environment and the economy of Northland. This is why the Greens are urging the Government just to look at the big picture," she said.

"Government decisions are due on the Auckland rail system today and the Napier / Gisborne line at the end of this month. With the Rotorua line under a cloud and with this scenario in Whangarei the Government must make developing a national rail strategy a real priority,"said Ms Fitzsimons.

ENDS

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