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Unions call for Govt leadership on Overlander

Transport unions call for Government leadership on Overlander decision

For immediate release Tuesday 26 September 2006

Transport unions have reacted with anger to the canning of the Overlander service and say the Government needs to provide leadership.

Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMTU) General Secretary Wayne Butson says the decision to end the passenger train between Auckland and Wellington is a disaster for Central North Island communities and New Zealand.

"The decision is one of the short-term, suck out profits mentality that has scarred New Zealand transport in the last two decades."

The Maritime Union of New Zealand (MUNZ) is also backing the RMTU with its call to put the brakes on the decision.

Mr Butson says the canning of the passenger service between Auckland and Wellington seemed to fly in the face of both commercial sense and the Government's transport strategy.

"New Zealand is one of the world's premier tourist destinations and the death of passenger trains on routes like this shows a complete lack of intelligence and a total failure of the operator."

Mr Butson says that current international trends show that environmentally sustainable modes like rail and shipping will soon replace fossil fuel guzzling road transport as the primary mode of transport.

"We must act now to reduce this nations dependence on imported fossil fuel and the retention of the North Island's last remaining long distance passenger train is essential to meeting this objective."

He says the Government has produced a sensible transport strategy, but good intentions and policy documents are not enough.

"They have to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. Citizens expect a Labour Government to act in the best social interests of New Zealand and not with a monetarist focus."

Mr Butson says to hear a Labour Cabinet Minister stating that for fiscal reasons they will not support the retention of the service is for Labour to be shunning its core values.

He says the interests of a national transport strategy outweigh the short-term focus of a multinational corporation.

"Let's get our priorities straight here," he says.

Mr Butson says a solution requires an open-minded, proactive approach of looking through all options and if necessary legislative action to keep a passenger service open in line with the Government's national transport strategy.

More than 23,000 New Zealanders have signed the Green Party petition calling on the Government to ensure the service is not axed.

ENDS

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