Rail investment ‘fantastic news’ for Northland, says Reade
Northland Inc CEO Murray Reade has welcomed the government’s decision to make further significant investment in the region’s rail infrastructure, describing it as “fantastic news”.
The latest investment of $109.7 million through the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF), which follows last year’s $94.8m outlay for much-needed work on the line between Swanson and Whangārei, will enable hi-cube container freight to be transported by rail through Northland for the first time.
“Good infrastructure is essential for economic development, and this announcement will have a significant impact in helping to keep the region travelling forward. It is fantastic news and further proof that this is our time in Tai Tokerau Northland,” said Reade.
“The benefits will be positive and far-reaching. It is, of course, great news for employment prospects in the region, and great news for communities, local businesses and contractors, who have the opportunity to play a part in this pivotal project.”
Almost $70m of the new investment will go on lowering tracks in the 13 tunnels between Swanson and Whangārei. This includes reopening the currently mothballed rail line north of Whangārei, between Kauri and Otiria, and building a container terminal at the Otiria rail yard, in Moerewa.
KiwiRail Group Chief Executive Greg Miller said it would open a whole new market to rail: “The tunnel work will have a huge impact on how freight is moved in and out of Northland. Currently 18 million tonnes of cargo is moved in and out of the region every year. Of that, around 30,000 containers leave Northland by road. Most aren’t able to fit through the tunnels, but this investment will change that.”
He added that reopening the line to Otiria and building the container terminal will catalyse the growth of agriculture, horticulture, dairy, and support forestry in the Far North: “Rail access has the ability to transform Northland, as a critical infrastructure that will unlock value in the region.”
Among the beneficiaries of this latest investment is Whangārei firm United Civil Construction, which has been awarded a contract to replace two bridges on the line near Whangārei.
“It’s great to see this level of infrastructure spending in the North and particularly pleasing to see local businesses get involved in this project, with spending going back into our communities,” said United Civil Construction Managing Director Andrew Campbell.
As part of the announcement, $40m will be used by KiwiRail to purchase land along the designated rail route between Oakleigh and Northport/Marsden Point.
The improvement of transport infrastructure and services was identified as a key priority in the Tai Tokerau Northland Economic Action Plan (TTNEAP), which is being facilitated and supported by Northland Inc, the region’s Economic Development Agency.
Launched in 2016 and refreshed in 2019, the TTNEAP brings into focus a group of projects that together are contributing to the transformation of Northland’s economy.
Progress is being made through identifying opportunities and inspiring innovation to encourage further investment, boosting sustainable jobs and productivity, building capability and empowering and engaging communities to reach their full potential."