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Yes Forestry Is Booming, But How Will You Move It?

Green co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons today welcomed acknowledgement from the Government that forestry production was due to increase by 58 per cent in the next three years but was disappointed there was no mention of how to cope with all the resulting freight.

In a speech this morning Forestry Minister Jim Sutton noted that forestry was due to grow in Northland by 298 per cent, Tairawhiti/Hawkes Bay by 265 per cent, and the Southern North Island by 380 per cent.

"The Green Party have been saying all year that forestry is set to explode in New Zealand. This will be good for the economy and jobs. However at the moment we do not have the transport infrastructure - particularly in rail - to deal with the huge surge in log freight," said Ms Fitzsimons.

"This is one of the factors that have motivated the Greens to develop and launch our own proposal for how the Government can reclaim the ownership and management of New Zealand's physical train tracks.

"The current owners of these tracks - Tranz Rail - are not prepared to invest in or upgrade these tracks. Instead the forestry areas which are going to be placing the most demand on our transport infrastructure - Northland and the Hawkes Bay - are the least equipped to manage," she said.

Tranz Rail are currently looking at closing the Napier / Gisborne rail line and are not prepared to fund a short spur track extension to link the new port of Whangarei to the main rail line.

"If Napier - Gisborne is shut down around 350 logging trucks will freight logs to the port of Napier on public roads every day. If the Whangarei port is not linked to the rail line then there will be around 700 logging truck movements in Northland communities every day," said Ms Fitzsimons.

"The costs of roading, and risks and frustrations for motorists will increase significantly if the extra logs and timber products are moved by trucks.

"Rail tracks are a significant strategic asset and the Government must move fast to regain the ownership of them before lack of interest puts them further at risk." Ends

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