Saving Gisborne-Napier Line


A high powered meeting of council and business leaders will meet KiwiRail in Gisborne next week to work out a way to save the Napier/Gisborne East Coast rail line.

Mayors Barbara Arnott of Napier, Lawrence Yule of Hastings and Les Probert of Wairoa District together with Regional Council and Regional Transport Committee Chair, Alan Dick, and HB Chamber of Commerce CEO, Murray Douglas, will represent Hawke’s Bay at a meeting with Mayor Meng Foon of Gisborne District with his Council and representatives of the Gisborne business community.

Importantly, KiwiRail CEO, Jim Quinn, and several of his senior executives will also be present.

The aim will be to reach a common view on the viability today of the rail link and to explore strategies to ensure its short and long term sustainability.

With Government backing, KiwiRail has recently released its “rail turn-around” plan. Together with three other provincial lines Napier/Gisborne will be reviewed by KiwiRail in consultation with its communities and its customers. KiwiRail has warned that unless new anchor customers emerge or can be secured, such lines will be closed or mothballed by 2012.

The Hawke’s Bay Leaders’ Group says that everything possible must be done to prevent closure of the line, in the light of major freight movement increases predicted for the near future, particularly timber products originating from Gisborne district. Containerised product will be able to be exported through the Port of Napier with a rail link maintained.

Their argument:

  • Concerns about safety and overloading of the Napier to Gisborne highway (SH2) which already carries a high proportion of heavy traffic
  • The need to maintain choice and competition in land transport modes
  • The potential loss of economic development opportunities without the rail option
  • Gisborne’s increased isolation and limits on their economic opportunities

The meeting is on the 24th.

A symposium on the issue is also being held on the 18th August.




  1. Ian says:

    Let’s hope this delegation is able to rustle up some business for the line. I attended a meeting with Jim Quinn recently and the bottom line seems to be that significant increases in freight are required for these very marginal lines to remain open. At the same meeting I got the distinct impression that the Auckland CBD tunnel is inevitable along with a line to the airport. If the electrification of Auckland is successful then the pressure on the government to further improve rail services will be enormous.

  2. Brent C says:

    I take it the meeting will also have representatives from Gisborne District Council.

    I hope future industries in these centres will be located around the rail to improve accessability and opportunities.

  3. dsadas says:

    If hikurangi forest farms don’t want to use the line consider it game over.

  4. Geoff says:

    I think the meeting will be a whitewash. The recipe for success for the line is already known, as it’s been done before. All they have to do is repeat what Ed Burkhardt did for the line in the early to mid 1990′s, which increased the number of weekly trains north of Napier from 10 to between 20 and 30.

    The 2 a week today is pathetic, and the sole reason for it is because KR have in place a business model that excludes most available traffic.

    If KR claims a lack of tonnage at the meeting, it’ll be a lie. Don’t fall for it! There is heaps of freight there. They just need to implement the correct business model for that line.

  5. jon r says:

    I do agree with Geoff. The business plan KR has for this line needs to be modified to one which your average Gisborne business can use. At present it would seem KR (through HEAVY pressure from the Steven Joyce) only want to look at bulk haul clients.

    As Geoff rightly pointed out on the Campaign For Better Transport forum, Tranzrail ran between 20 to 30 trains a week on the line in the 1990′s. This was until the ill fated Beard Era which focused on using trucks everywhere they could.

    So, KR, have a small fleet of contractors trucks at the Giborne railhead, perhaps at Napier and other locations to build up freight on the line. We all know the railway can compete on time alone between Gisborne and Napier vs trucks. So a bit of investment in the line could increase those “important” time savings. After all, if Steven Joyce can throw $30 million on a 2 km section of the state highway to shave 30 seconds off a 5 hour drive…then giving KR $5 million for a rail upgrade is completely feasible.

    The trucking lobby + Joyce is working hard to kill this line.

  6. tuktuk says:


    A Gisborne Herald article.
    I have extracted one key quote (the rest of the article and the link is pasted below):

    ‘Trucking costs would decrease by up to 35 percent once vehicle weights and dimensions increased on key routes, making rail even less competitive. ‘

    The RTA have represented the interests of their members well with good results (for their members) achieved with their lobbying and political party donations…..

    Rail rescue mission
    Marianne Gillingham
    19 June 2010

    A high-level gathering of community leaders from Napier, Hastings, Wairoa and Gisborne next Thursday hopes to secure the future of the
    Gisborne-to-Napier railway line when KiwiRail chief Jim Quinn comes to town.

    The Hawke’s Bay Leaders’ Group wants to see containerised timber products originating from this district going out through the Port of Napier via rail.

    Hawke’s Bay leaders say their focus is on the safety and overloading of the Napier to Gisborne highway (SH2), the need to maintain competition in land transport modes, and the potential loss of economic development
    opportunities without the rail option.

    “There is also concern for our Gisborne neighbours who could face increased isolation and limits on their economic opportunities as well,” said Hawke’s Bay Regional Council chairman Alan smeg.

    But one of Gisborne’s most experienced timber processing experts, Sheldon Drummond from Juken New Zealand, believes this region’s economic interest would be best served by supporting the local port.

    “There is no “economic” reason to take Gisborne timber to any other port for export,” he says.

    “Moving wood to Napier or Tauranga is at additional cost to the primary
    producer and represents lost opportunity to our region, including Port

    Timber was the only year-round local bulk product that would be sufficient
    to underpin rail’s financial need, he said.

    But most of the region’s forests were to the north and west of Gisborne and its rail head, he said.

    Logs therefore must be trucked to Gisborne and would need to be

    The exception was the Wharerata forest where although the rail went through the forest, logs still needed to be trucked to the rail for loading at a similar cost to bringing the logs directly to the JNL mill by road.

    Trucking costs would decrease by up to 35 percent once vehicle weights and dimensions increased on key routes, making rail even less competitive.

    Juken had tried rail but found it was uncompetitive against trucking because of the cost of double-handling and product damage.

    Processed timber from mills such as Juken New Zealand Ltd could be railed from the mill if they had rail sidings to Napier but due to international shipping routes, cargoes were split between Napier, Tauranga and even Auckland.

    Rail from Gisborne to northern ports was impracticable due to having to
    travel south to Palmerston North before heading north, said Mr Drummond.

    But Port Gisborne currently had no container facility and many processed
    timber products therefore had to go to other container ports. This was
    immensely reducing the net income to this region.

    “It is far better for our region to back our local port with investment
    rather than to back an inefficient rail service that will reduce long-term
    returns to our region’s base economy,” said Mr Drummond.

    However, the Eastland Group is faced with a chicken-and-egg situation with developing a container coastal service at the local port.

    Eastland Group chief executive Matt Todd said the lack of certainty rail
    would act in an economically rational way was one of the factors inhibiting

    “We can compete if a true market is in place but not if rail continues to be
    subsidised by the taxpayer,” he said.

    The other factor was a lack of processed timber volume currently leaving the region.

    “We expect that this will shift over time and that if the volumes are
    available a container coastal service could be established within 12

    The port worked with its key customers to ascertain where the investment was needed.

    “Currently it is on new log storage, hard standing, a new scaling station
    and gantry cranes, a new weigh bridge and channel deepening,” said Mr Todd.

    Once there was enough demand for shipping processed timber, the company would invest money to meet that demand.

    “Eastland Port has done a full assessment on the various transport options
    being road, rail and coastal shipping for moving large volumes of processed product out of and into Gisborne. Coastal shipping, which would be a container-based service, is the cheapest of the three and has the lowest carbon footprint- provided there are adequate volumes,” he said.

  7. VOGON says:

    One Train can qual fifty trucks…In terms of Line Haul and some local work rail has got to be more efficient and competitive.

  8. Another case of industrial wrecking by our so called politicians and others in the trucking industry who would rather tarnish New Zealand’s clean green image. If they have there way then New Zealand would be left with no railways except for heritage railways.
    This will be a very sad day for this great country of ours
    if this was aloud to happen.


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