Gisborne council wants 'shovel-ready' funding for rail line

4:47 pm on 23 June 2020

The axe has not yet fallen on the Gisborne to Wairoa rail line as it vies for a slice of the $3 billion the Government has set aside for shovel-ready infrastructure projects.

KiwiRail logo on train.

Photo: Supplied / KiwiRail

Gisborne District Council is blaming human error for the railway being omitted from a shortlist it supplied to The Gisborne Herald this month of local infrastructure projects that are still in the running for taxpayer funds.

Nationwide, more than 1900 projects were put forward for funding and 802 made the shortlist.

The rail line was included in the council's funding application, but the council made it clear that while it supported reopening the track, it would not be in charge of the project.

That responsibility would fall to KiwiRail, whose group chief executive Greg Miller said the line did not stack up economically.

The council, in its application, said up to $23.3 million was needed to get the line open, but Miller believed it could cost up to five times as much.

Despite this view, he was in Gisborne last week to meet with project stakeholders, including the council, and said there was more commercial support for the rail link than he realised.

The line has been closed since 2012 due to storm damage.

The shortlisted projects are being weighed up by Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones.

Jones has previously said he will not overrule KiwiRail's view that it did not make sense to reopen the line.

When asked this morning if that meant it was a forgone conclusion the rail project would not be funded, a spokesperson for Jones said he stood by his earlier comment.

The five council projects that have made the shortlist are the redevelopment of Gisborne's Olympic Pool Complex and upgrades to the city's wastewater treatment plant, Waipaoa River stopbanks and residential wastewater and stormwater systems.

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