HBRC is considering an investment, with private sector partners, in the operation of a rail business carrying freight on the line.
The proposal has been included in HBRC’s draft annual plan 2014/15, which was adopted at yesterday’s council meeting and will be released for public comment between April 2 and May 12.
Any investment by HBRC would be dependent on KiwiRail and the Government reopening the rail line, and fully funding its return and that of associated infrastructure in a good ‘‘fit for purpose’’ condition.
The proposal would see HBRC become a 51 percent shareholder in the venture, with businesses and investors in Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne holding the remaining 49 percent of shares in the operating company set up for this purpose.
The operating company would acquire locomotives and rolling stock from KiwiRail, or elsewhere, to operate the service. It would carry freight, predominantly logs, fruit and vegetable produce.
Councillor Alan Dick, who is also chairman of the Regional Transport Committee, told the meeting yesterday he was encouraged by the support from fellow councillors to the proposal.
“Northern Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne need appropriate options for rail and road. With choice comes competition and pricing tension, which is good for business,” says Mr Dick.
He says Northern Hawke’s Bay is resource-rich with forestry and crops such as squash and corn, requiring reliable rail access to an export container port. Gisborne’s port would not be affected by the proposal.
“Robust transport infrastructure is positive for Wairoa, with service and employment opportunities such as rail maintenance teams based in Wairoa, as well as the rail storage hub.
“It would offer a transport choice of rail or road and also provide better resilience when responding to civil defence or hazardous events.
“Our understanding is that the forest harvest volume of 90,000 tonnes per year will increase to 900,000 tonnes per year, taking transport volumes up an additional 150 to 180 truck movements per day in a few years.”
HBRC chairman and Wairoa councillor Fenton Wilson said in today’s value the rail line would cost billions of dollars to replicate.
“Let’s not lose it while it is still workable,” he said.
The proposal is within the draft 2014-15 annual plan and the public is asked to comment on whether or not they consider this to be a good investment for HBRC.