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Rail is about economics, wellbeing & environment

“Rail is about economics, wellbeing & environmental responsibilities.”

June 26, 2019

Press release. Citizens Environmental Advocacy Centre.

THE key difference between the BERL rail study reports and the botched ‘2014 MBIE/NZTA rail reports’ on the Napier-Gisborne rail line is that BERL considered environmental and social responsibilities, and community wellbeing while MBIE/NZTA did not.

We should never use NZTA for a ‘rail advisor’.

We witnessed a “whitewash” at the unveiling of the MBIE/NZTA ‘East Coast economic study’ in 2014. This study was promised to all councils in Hawke’s Bay/Gisborne as a trade-off instead of reopening the rail service, and there was no response to our pointed questions to Steven Joyce and Gerry Brownlee at the launch.

We asked both Ministers: “Why has no one considered environmental and social responsibilities, and impacts of more trucks roaming through residential zones in all towns and cities through the regions without rail to lower the 24/7 truck gridlock?”

We stated that our company CER Ltd, a qualified environmental research company, had been monitoring air pollution, noise effects of these heavy freight vehicles in suburban areas. The results were dire for the public health of communities exposed to the increasing number of these vehicles in our region.

In our research we discovered this region had the fastest-growing truck activity area in the country. According to NZTA statistics, Hawke’s Bay-Gisborne truck activity grew at 12.5 percent in 2012-13, compared to a national average of 6-8 percent.

At the launch of the MBIE/NZTA report we pulled out an air-monitoring filter (Gravimetric) that collects exhaust and tyre dust particles over 24 hours. When the filter is black it is heavy pollution, as was the one we showed the room — saying this is a public health issue now and rail can be used to reduce the pollution to the public.

I discussed this in-depth with Mr Brownlee at the tea break. He seemed to want to learn about this issue so I asked, “Have you read the 2005 Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment report on the Napier heavy traffic noise and air-quality issues?” He had not.

https://www.pce.parliament.nz/media/1515/hb-expressway.pdf

The PCE report was a year-long study of the Napier section of the expressway. The commissioner strongly recommended more use of rail to lower the public health effects of heavy truck movements.

We supplied Mr Brownlee with a copy of this report and asked him to review the problem. This way he would know the justification for spending taxpayer money on rail when we again raise the need for rail, to counter the increased truck movements that will drive people from their homes or end their lives prematurely.

What is sad is that the MBIE/NZTA report, as a “broad” economic report” contained no mention of environmental responsibilities, community wellbeing or social responsibilities.

The 2014 economic potential report is clearly flawed and in direct conflict with NZTA’s own policy to have strict regard for environmental and social responsibilities in its road activities, and now with the new descriptors of ‘community wellbeing.’

NZTA, the (road controlling agency) (RCA) provided advice on transport for the report instead of Government’s own “Principal Transport advisor” The Ministry of Transport, which covers rail, road, air and sea transport.

Predictably the research documents provided were only road studies and there was no review of any rail efficiency/environmental reports. It is no wonder the study showed no support for reopening the Napier-Gisborne rail service!

We could name six solid Ministry of Transport rail studies and none were reviewed. Why?

We regard the economic study to be a waste of taxpayer funds, unless the Government commits to a review and inclusion of these responsibilities.

The Citizens’ Environmental Advocacy Centre has now approached the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment to review the omission of public health and safety concerns, and the non-consideration of Ministry of Transport rail efficiency and environmental studies which could have clearly shown why rail is required — not just for economic reasons but also for community wellbeing and our environmental responsibilities.

ends

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