Gov't leadership needed to get logs on rail
18 July 2001
The predicted explosion in numbers of logging trucks grinding though Dunedin on the way to Port Chalmers highlights the need for urgent Government action to get logs on rail, Green Party co-leader Rod Donald said today.
The Dunedin City Council estimates logging trucks heading to Port Chalmers will nearly triple by 2003 - from 700 trucks a month (up from 600 two months ago because of the previous largest forest user of rail switching to road) to 1800 trucks a month.
"This imminent explosion in truck numbers is one more symptom of a transport system in crisis, and highlights the current lack of Government leadership on transport issues," said Mr Donald.
"It demonstrates the urgent need for the Government to negotiate to get the rail track back - especially as Dunedin is not the only place facing a logging transport crisis.
"Specifically in the case of Dunedin, the Government needs to change Transfund rules so that a land port would be eligible for a Transfund subsidy - enabling the logs to be gathered in one place and loaded onto rail wagons.
"The Government needs to put pressure on TranzRail to make the rolling stock available, and get the parties together to discuss future transport needs for the logging industry.
"The thought of 22,000 truck movements a year on that narrow, windy road from Dunedin to Port Chalmers is horrific. It's an accident waiting to happen and it's already like an earthquake zone for people living on that route. An alternative has to be found," he said.
Mr Donald said our present funding system subsidises roads over rail, and skews all transport decisions.
"The Government has to find some way to level the playing field for rail, or we will pay the price with congested, dangerous roads - heavy freight trucks will be jostling with single-car commuters, tourists driving camper vans, cyclists and kids crossing roads.
"Who is thinking about what impact this will have on tourism, as tourists are scared out of their wits by a procession of thundering logging trucks?"
Mr Donald said he had spent the last two months campaigning keenly to keep passenger rail services alive, and had been overwhelmed by the community support to keep rail.