Rt. Hon. Winston Peters, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for State-Owned Enterprises
We promised we would bring back rail, and that’s what we’re doing.
In a little over two years we have allocated more than $3 billion to restore a reliable, resilient and safe freight and tourism network.
That includes $1.226 billion from the Budget, hundreds of millions from the Provincial Growth Fund, and $815 million from the National Land Transport Fund.
And yesterday we announced a further $1.14 billion for four much-needed rail projects as part of a broader $12 billion package.
Today, we have the pleasure of announcing $109.7 million to enable Northland’s producers to send freight around the country by rail.
The last three decades have seen appalling neglect of our rail system and the Northland Line hasn’t seen serious investment in over 50 years.
The previous Government had a malignant, derelict, brainless policy of deliberately running railways down.
But this Government knows that rail is a critical part of an integrated transport network.
Rail is a cost-effective choice for sending products long distance, to reduce congestion and wear and tear on major roads, and to lower carbon emissions from freight.
We are making sure that rail’s place in our transport system is fully recognised and that it is funded sustainably in the years and decades ahead.
You are all aware how important we believe rail is for the future of Northland.
KiwiRail currently moves about 116,000 tonnes of freight a year on this rail line – that’s barely 5 per cent of the freight volumes leaving this region. It’s a far cry from the near million tonnes moved by rail in Northland before the port moved to Marsden Point (in 2007).
We need less congestion on the region’s roads and more freight on our trains.
There are 30,000 containers leaving Northland on the back of trucks each year. And some of those exports are being trucked from Whangarei to South Auckland to go on trains to Tauranga Port.
That is nonsense. It’s absurd. It’s inefficient and, quite frankly, it’s unfair to the people of Northland.
Trucks are clogging Northland’s roads and highways because for decades the investment in rail hasn’t come close to what it should have been.
Our Government is committed to rebuilding Northland’s rail network, making trains reliable and a real option for Northland businesses to get their goods to port and to market.
We are giving the people of Northland the railway they deserve; giving them the same rail access and opportunities that other regions have. We are doing what should have been done a long time ago.
Last year we announced almost $95 million through the PGF to save the line between Auckland and Whangarei. Without our investment this line would have continued to decline and would have closed within a few years.
We were not going to let that happen.
With today’s announcement we are setting the right conditions to really bring rail back to this region.
Being able to fit standard shipping containers through the tunnels on this line will mean KiwiRail will be able to compete directly with road freight.
We’re also backing rail to expand further into Northland by reopening the line to Otiria. As agriculture and horticulture in the far north grows, rail will be there to support that growth.
It’s about getting ahead of the curve.
And we’re enabling KiwiRail to buy the land they need to build a spur line to Northport and Marsden Point.
You all know our feelings about the future of Auckland’s Port. It has to come north so this region can see the jobs and business growth it will bring.
Cabinet will be making a decision on that in due course but we need to be ready.
It is going to be a long road back for rail Northland, but we have made a major step on that journey today.
My colleague Shane Jones, a true son of Northland, will now fill you in on the details around today’s announcement.