Gisborne rail link left out of draft New Zealand Rail Plan

3:22 pm on 10 March 2020

The Gisborne-Wairoa rail line has been left out of the draft New Zealand Rail Plan.

KiwiRail on Napier to Wairoa line.

A KiwiRail train on the Napier to Wairoa line. Photo: RNZ screenshot

The plan will set the government's 10-year vision for rail and guides investment.

"More regional routes" were identified as "future opportunities" but not 2021-31 investment priorities in the draft plan.

A study by Berl economists suggested it was feasible to restore the rail link between Gisborne and Wairoa, with up to $23 million needed to get the line back up and running and up to $13m for further improvements.

Gisborne District Council was set to provide feedback on the draft plan, and councillor Bill Burdett wanted it to be pro-reinstatement.

At last week's regional transport committee meeting, Burdett sought assurance from council staff that the submission would take a "positive position" on restoring the Gisborne-Wairoa line.

The council's transformation and relationships director, Keita Kohere, said staff had not started drafting a submission but would provide a "balanced" appraisal.

"We would not be pre-empting that advice at this stage," Kohere said.

Another mothballed section of the Gisborne-Palmerston North line - between Wairoa and Napier - reopened in June last year.

The restoration project received $6.2m from the Provincial Growth Fund.

It was hoped log trains would cart 1400 tonnes of logs from Wairoa to Napier Port each weekend.

The first train set off on January 26, but since then just two log trains have used the line, with KiwiRail pointing to a slowdown in harvesting due to "congestion in the international supply chain for logs ... exacerbated by the outbreak of Covid-19".

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