Bad Slip Shows NZ Vulnerable


The bad slip at Kaikoura , that will take days to clear, has prompted the Maritime Union to say it highlights the reliance on heavy trucking and the rundown of coastal shipping.
It says the union has argued for many years that over reliance on land transport and especially trucking was short-sighted.
“Unfortunately we have had little progress and the current Government is only interested in heavy trucking. We no longer have the coastal shipping capability to deal with the problem,” says Maritime Union General Secretary Joe Fleetwood.
That’s now threatening this country’s capability to deal with the social and economic fallout from natural disasters.
The Christchurch – Picton road and rail link was the only convenient land route from North Island to the majority of the South Island’s cities and economic hubs.
He says if there was a fleet of vessels available, they would be able to quickly respond to such a situation if required, either for emergency relief or simply to ensure the supply chain was not broken.
But there are only a very small number of New Zealand freight vessels working on the coastal trade.
The massive slip near Kaikoura has blocked the main road and rail link from north to south for the last couple of days and it is not known for certain how long it will take to clear and repair but it will be at least Thursday before one section of the road could open. Clearance of the debris is progressing, but has been complicated at times due to the risks associated with the instability of the slope.
It’s not clear whether the cause of the skip was the recent Christchurch earthquake, or heavy rain, but regardless of the cause, it’s creating extra problems for transport and logistics in the badly disrupted South Island at a crucial time. Heavy trucks are diverted through the Lewis Pass, hundreds of kilometers off their normal route.
As the slip closed the Main North Line. KiwiRail is road bridging freight out of Blenheim.
The maritime union says KiwiRail is now considering shipping freight to South Island ports other than Picton, to reach Christchurch faster.
Mr Fleetwood says that the neglect of coastal shipping has led to a “blind spot” in New Zealand’s transport mix.
“We’re an island nation dependent on shipping that has allowed its own shipping capability to vanish due to bad policies, and we are seeing now why this is a bad idea.”
Due to New Zealand’s geography, reliance on land based transport modes running down narrow and easily disrupted transport corridors was a dangerous weakness.
The Christchurch – Picton road and rail link was the only convenient land route from North Island to the majority of the South Island’s cities and economic hubs.
Most coastal cargo is now dominated by overseas vessels which work to tight fixed international schedules based on the interests of their owners, rather than any local concerns.
Mr Fleetwood says that the concerns about a Wellington earthquake were still extremely valid.
“If we look at New Zealand’s capital, it is totally dependent on a couple of access routes, and if these were blocked, shipping might provide the only lifeline.”
The Maritime Union was calling on the Government to remove policies which disadvantaged New Zealand shipping and included the “blue highway” as a key element of the transport mix.

KiwiRail  announced the TranzCoastal passenger train service is cancelled and a bus replacement cannot be provided.




  1. Anthony M says:

    This mades me think of the reliance on the Centennial Highway on Wellington.


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