23 Feb 2018

Back on track: Chunk of $60m regional fund goes to rail

5:49 pm on 23 February 2018

Five regions will receive just over $60 million in the first chunk of money allocated out of the Provincial Growth Fund, officially launched in Gisborne today.

Shane Jones.

Regional Economic Development Minister and New Zealand First MP Shane Jones. Photo: RNZ

The government will give $5m to KiwiRail to reopen the Wairoa-to-Napier train line, which it says will take more than 5000 trucks off the road each year.

A total of $8m has been allocated to rebooting regional rail, and the government said it would also conduct feasibility studies on projects in Kawerau, Southland and New Plymouth.

The Provincial Growth Fund, officially launched in Gisborne today, is part of the coalition agreement between Labour and New Zealand First.

The government has also confirmed a feasibility study into moving the location of the Ports of Auckland to Northport.

The $1 billion a year fund is part of the coalition agreement between Labour and New Zealand First.

Money has been committed to forestry initiatives, tourism ventures and rail and roading projects in Northland, Tairawhiti-East Coast, Hawke's Bay, Manawatu-Whanganui and the West Coast of the South Island.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters campaigned on moving container cargo and car import businesses from the Ports of Auckland to Northland by 2027.

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Photo: RNZ / Jane Patterson

Regional Economic Development Minister and New Zealand First MP Shane Jones said today "the future of the upper North Island ports", including the relocation of Ports of Auckland, would be considered as part of a "wider transport and logistics strategy".

"As per our coalition agreement, we are committed to exploring the feasibility of moving the location of the Ports of Auckland, including giving Northport serious consideration.

"We are also committed to investigating a rail line to Marsden Point and Northport and upgrading the North Auckland Line to take pressure off the roads in Northland", Mr Jones said.

And he said the $1 billion tree-planting programme was already underway, with 55m trees being planted this year, to 70m in 2019 and 90m in 2020.

Mr Jones said the government needed to be bold.

"I'm not going to shy away from the fact that a $3 billion fund over two and a half years carries a certain risk."

An Independent Advisory Panel has been established to oversee projects, costing between $1 million and $20 million, to be chaired by Rodger Finlay.

Local Government president Dave Cull said mayors around the country were ready and willing to work with the government on the fund, as it was in no one's interests to see it fail.

He said it was a great opportunity but mayors were yet to see the criteria, and how they would be applied.

However, National Party leader Bill English said most of the projects were simply a rebranding of existing projects, and he expected the regions would be disappointed.

He said regions were promised a bonanza of money but had instead ended up with a whimper of a plan.

Regional Initiatives

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Photo: daboost/123RF

Regional Rail

  • $8.75m to reopen the Wairoa-Napier line for logging trains, upgrade the Whanganui line for mainline locomotives carrying exports and fund feasibility studies for three further regional rail projects ($250,000 each for three feasibility studies on KiwiRail projects in Kawerau, Southland and New Plymouth).
  • $250,000 for three feasibility studies on KiwiRail projects in Kawerau, Southland and New Plymouth - $750,000 in total.

Northland

  • Support for two cultural centres in Opononi and Whangārei.
  • $450,000 for a Tōtara industry pilot to explore a new market in the forestry sector.
  • $2.3 million for the construction of a new tourism hub in Kawakawa.
  • Up to $9 million for roading project at the Waipapa Intersection to improve safety, reduce congestion.

Gisborne/Hawke's Bay

  • A broad tourism package, including $2.3m to redevelop Gisborne Inner Harbour and $1 million toward a programme to commemorate the first encounters between Māori and Europeans.
  • $200,000 to kick-start the creation of a $20 million Wood Processing Centre of Excellence in Gisborne, which the government said would create 167 jobs.

Manawatū-Whanganui

  • $3 million towards revitalisation of the Whanganui Port
  • Subject to a business case, the government will support works to the port planned by Whanganui District Council and identified in the 2016 Manawatū-Whanganui Economic Action Plan - Accelerate 25.
  • Plus an additional $90,000 to assist with further technical and design work, including undertaking a geotechnical assessment.

West Coast of the South Island

  • $1m investment towards further development of two 'Great Rides' cycle trails- the West Coast Wilderness Trail and the Old Ghost Rd trail.
  • $100,000 to help Punakaiki develop a master plan to 'future-proof' the township.
  • $350,000 to assist in understanding the opportunity of a waste-to-energy plant in the Buller District.

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