Rail project headlines major spend-up

CAITLIN WALLACE
Last updated 12:14 02/07/2014

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Development of a road/rail freight terminal in Tokoroa is rolling full steam ahead following a huge cash injection from the South Waikato District Council.

A $2.5 million investment into the "rail siding" project will result in the creation of 30 jobs, according to the council's deputy chief executive, Ben Smith.

The venture, which has been discussed for the past six months, secured funding from the district's $5 million play fund.

The terminal will allow direct road/rail container loading and unloading, making Tokoroa a key distribution centre, Smith said.

Alongside the $1.73m already invested in the project from other council budgets, the project received $770,000 from the $5m.

More than 40 submissions totalling $15m vied for a cut of the fund.

The council will be in partnership with KiwiRail, the NZ Transport Agency, RJ Lincoln Logistics and other potential investors.

RJL contributed with the gifted land and $1m for equipment.

Smith said the work would start this spring and an expected finish date of March 2015 will ensure the district can "reap the benefits".

"In autumn there's a huge amount of product coming into the district for the stock feed," he said.

Mayor Neil Sinclair is adamant the council has invested wisely.

"The development of this project fits perfectly with the council's two strategic objectives of economic development and district promotion," Sinclair said.

It will be available for all existing and new businesses to use.

The rail siding is not the only venture in the pipeline following the council's announcement that $4.7m has been allocated to 15 economic and community development projects.

The long-awaited Leith Place upgrade received $1m on top of the $500,000 already allocated in the 2014-15 budget.

Close to $1m will be used to increase the number of pensioner housing units in the district and the Rangiura Rest Home will get an extra $650,000 to contribute to its pending upgrade.

Tokoroa Mountain Bike Club was granted $350,000 to develop existing and new tracks and facilities while Tirau Community Board now has more than $200,000 to create a walkway from the Tirau township to the Tirau Domain.

The district-wide plea for public transport has been answered in the form of a $200,000 study. The project will examine the need for a service and the council will decide whether it should go ahead.

Sinclair said it was a shame not all projects could be funded.

"We know that groups that missed out will be disappointed."

"Many of the ideas that were put forward would indeed add value to our social fabric, but funding them all was simply not possible."

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He said the key focus was on projects the council would not or could not normally fund, the longevity and sustainability of the initiative and the reach it would have to benefit the community.

"Remarkably there was a lot of uniformity in the selection, but I doubt if any one councillor selected all those that received funding. The other debate was about the level of funding. In general it was agreed that we had to make sure that the project would be completed and that meant granting the full amount wherever we could," Sinclair said.

Of the nine projects put forward by the council during the consultation phase, three projects received provisional funding. These include the road/rail terminal initiative, pensioner housing and the Leith Place refurbishment.

The council will be taking the lead on four other projects, some in collaboration with the submitters and other interested parties.

The funding will remain in house initially; bringing the total council-led projects to seven.

PROJECT AND HOW MUCH?

Tokoroa road/rail terminal project: $770,000

Leith Place refurbishment: $1 million

Pensioner housing: $950,000

Rangiura retirement village and home for the elderly expansion: $650,000

Cougar Park upgrade: $350,000

South Waikato Motocross Track upgrade: $50,000

Tirau Walkway: $230,000

Te Waihou Walkway upgrade: $151,000

Tokoroa High School Services Academy expansion: $100,000

Lake Moananui revegetation: $20,000

Future nutrient and waste stream management/agriculture project development: $50,000

New course at Trade Training Centre: $120,000

Former Masonic Hall alternations for St John Youth Putaruru: $75,000

Tokoroa Hospice: $28,000

Public transport district wide (scoping study and implementation funding): $200,000

- Waikato

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