14 Feb 2013

Govt to fund study on East Coast economic growth

3:36 pm on 14 February 2013

The Government has agreed to fund a regional economic and transport study for the East Coast region following the closure of the Napier-Gisborne rail link.

KiwiRail wants to mothball the rail line, saying it is not worth repairing the storm-damaged tracks.

The Gisborne, Hawke's Bay and Wairoa mayors met with government ministers Gerry Brownlee, Steven Joyce and Chris Tremain on Thursday to discuss the future of the rail service.

The region's leaders and businesses want the line repaired and reopened.

The mayors say the line is vital for economic development and if the Government was not prepared to reopen it, the rail network and rolling stock should be offered to a local consortium to run.

But Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee said on Thursday there was collective agreement that the greatest benefit lay in better understanding the potential for long-term economic growth in the region first.

"I think they've very sensibly said, we're trying to solve short-term problems with solutions that could have long-term effect; let's do it the other way round - have a look at the long-term opportunities and then work out what we need to take the best advantage of them."

Mr Brownlee says the rail line could be recommissioned if needed.

Chris Tremain said by the end of the meeting he felt that all involved understood the importance of the line being economically viable and a wider study was needed to assess the ability of all transport in the region, including port and rail.

The mayors were also due to meet Labour and Green Party MPs on Thursday.