New beginnings for Napier-Wairoa rail link in 2017

The future of the Napier to Wairoa rail line is back on track, following a commercial agreement between KiwiRail and Napier Port.

The agreement will see Napier Port run a dedicated log service from Wairoa to Napier Port beginning in the last quarter of 2017, once the port has approved KiwiRail’s updated forecast cost for restoring the line to service.

KiwiRail Chief Executive Peter Reidy said he was pleased to see the return of commercial rail services in the region. The Napier-Gisborne line had been mothballed in 2012.

“This is a real boost to business growth in the region and KiwiRail is delighted to be able to support that. We had always signaled that the line could reopen in the future, as long as there was sufficient freight volume available to support rail operations and the necessary investment in infrastructure was made.”

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s Interim Chief Executive Liz Lambert was delighted to see this agreement return a rail freight option to northern Hawke’s Bay.

“The community regularly gave us feedback supporting this line being reinstated. It makes perfect sense to see this arrangement sit commercially between Napier Port and KiwiRail.”

Napier Port CEO Garth Cowie was also pleased to see the line return to operation.

“Napier Port is a critical gateway for the central North Island and ensuring that we have the right transport links in place is a crucial factor in moving East Coast export products to world markets.”

“The East Coast region is expecting a considerable increase in log exports from late 2017, with significant volumes forecast to come through both Eastland Port and Napier Port”, Mr Cowie said.

“The increasing long-term log volumes from Wairoa will stretch the capacity and infrastructure of both road and rail in the whole East Coast region.

“It’s vital that we have the capability within the wider region to transport these in a reliable, efficient and environmentally friendly manner, and the reopening of the rail link will enhance transport options for our log exporters.”

The Wairoa log service will initially run over the weekend, with two services each Saturday and Sunday. The service will complement the utilisation of the rail capacity which Napier Port has already committed to in the central North Island with its dedicated weekday log service from the Whanganui, Palmerston North and Woodville areas.

Forest Management NZ Ltd manage the Roger Dickie forest syndicates, which collectively have over 11,000 hectares within the greater Wairoa area. Forest Manager and joint CEO Steve Bell says his company has been in support of the Napier-Wairoa rail link reopening since its closure in 2012.

“We are therefore delighted at the news this is now to become a reality,” Bell said. “With significant harvest volumes coming on stream, the rail link will provide both FMNZ as managers and the forest owners with greater options while strengthening links direct to the port.”