Stay of execution for Napier-Gisborne line
HAWKE'S BAY REPORTER
KiwiRail has pushed back D-day for mothballing the Napier-Gisborne rail line as the affected communities continue the fight to save the line.
A group protested the closure of the line outside KiwiRail's annual general meeting in Wellington today.
Businesses using the line between Napier and Wairoa were given a November 8 deadline to shift freight on to the road.
But today, KiwiRail representative Kim Santer told a Hawke's Bay regional transport committee businesses could use the line up until Christmas.
It was a glimmer of hope for the communities rallying against KiwiRail's decision to mothball the line, because it was not financially viable to repair and retain the line.
Freight rail services between Wairoa and Gisborne have been suspended since March after serious storm damage caused several large washouts.
Reinstating the line was expected to cost about $4 million with ongoing maintenance costs likely to rise from $2m to $6m a year.
Gisborne Rail Action Group member Ken Crispin told the committee the people of Gisborne were ''on their knees with their hearts in their throat''. The community was worried Gisborne would become even more cut off without a rail link to the coastal city. State Highway 2 was often affected by slips.
Mr Crispin had canvassed businesses and said people were willing to commit to using rail but needed more time to put his case to the Government.
Mr Crispin acknowledged KiwiRail's chief executive Jim Quinn made an economic decision only.
''KiwiRail does not have to consider social issues. The Government's got him [Quinn] in a straight jacket.''
To coincide with KiwiRail's decision, Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee announced earlier this month that the Government would put $4m into developing passing lanes at Kopua Hill and between Lake Tutira and Te Ngaru on State Highway 2.
Regional councillor Liz Remmerswaal questioned the timing of the roading ''sweetener'' and suggested the money be diverted to keeping the line open.
''Why can't the money go into what the people of the community want?''
She said the decision to mothball the line was ''premature and short sighted''.
The regional transport committee moved that Hawke's Bay and Gisborne mayors and chair advocate the Government to retain and repair the line because of the social, economic and environmental impact on the region.
- © Fairfax NZ News