KiwiRail wants its ferry terminal in the central city, without its competitor

September 3, 2020 – Report from RNZ by Catherine Hutton


Plans to build a multi-use ferry terminal in Wellington are in jeopardy, following KiwiRail’s insistence it wants to move into the central city beside rival Bluebridge, but won’t share facilities with them.

An estimated billion-dollar investment for new wharves in both Wellington and Picton is needed to allow KiwiRail to switch its Interislander operation to two new larger rail ferries by 2024.

Two years ago, the Future Ports Forum, comprising representatives from the Wellington Regional Council, the Wellington City Council, Centreport, the Transport Agency, KiwiRail, and Bluebridge was set up to look at where to best situate the capital’s new Cook Strait ferry terminal.

It was agreed the new site would be shared by the Interislander, which KiwiRail owns, and rival Bluebridge.

The latest report from interested stakeholders, released in April, recommended Kaiwharawhara where the Interislander ferries currently dock.

Regional Council (GWRC) chairperson Daran Ponter said KiwiRail left the forum before the final report was released because they did not agree with the location.

“Because they were on the working group they had an understanding of where that report was going to land in terms of its recommendation, they clearly didn’t agree with Kaiwharawhara as the preferred recommendation and they pulled out in advance. Not helpful, but it’s an interesting way of doing business.”

KiwiRail chief executive Greg Miller denied leaving the forum, and said releasing the report did not make sense.

“What you are talking about is, ‘did we agree in the forum?’ and the fact is we didn’t agree in the forum, so we’d said no we don’t think that’s the best outcome and we made that very clear,” Miller said.

“Then you’d have to ask yourself, what was the benefit of the Future Ports Forum that couldn’t agree, when the two customers – Bluebridge and KiwiRail – couldn’t agree with the provider, that’s more the point.”

tructural engineers say the Kaiwharawhara site can be built to cope with earthquakes but geotech scientists are less sure.

Miller said it was the geotech report that made KiwiRail stop and think.

“Is this the best location on the port to put new ferries and a new terminal that is rail served? There’s also the motorway upgrade and the location on the port for future transport, which has always been a challenge at Kaiwharawhara, with road and rail location and for the passengers arriving from overseas and domestically, getting access to the Kaiwharawhara site,” he said.

Estimates for building new ferry terminals in both Picton and Wellington are vague – ranging somewhere between half a billion and a billion dollars.

Miller said the huge costs of having to remediate the site could not be ignored. “You can engineer your way out of many things, but what we’re told by the engineers is that the cost of mitigation is extremely high, so there is a cost component to this that you cannot ignore.”

KiwiRail prefers its new terminal to be at Kings Wharf, beside Bluebridge’s existing spot, and closer to downtown Wellington.

But GWRC chairperson Daran Ponter said while KiwiRail had zeroed in on the seismic issues at Kaiwharawhara, Kings Wharf also had problems.

Ponter said the 2016 Kaikōura earthquake showed how fragile the port was. The port received more than $600 million – the second biggest insurance payout in New Zealand’s history – for the damage suffered in that quake.

“Kings Wharf sits midway between the container terminal and the new BNZ centre, both of which were taken out in the November 2016 Kaikōura earthquake. So it would appear wherever you locate yourself around the Centreport site, you are potentially still open to being challenged by an earthquake.”

And documents suggest the lengths KiwiRail is prepared to go to get the site. An email seen by RNZ from their group general counsel, Jonathan Earl, to KiwRail managers in May raised the possibility of using the Public Works Act to secure it.

Ponter said that would be unprecedented and would effectively mean seizing land from regional ratepayers.

“Clearly KiwiRail are an acquiring authority under the Public Works Act, but Centreport itself is a public works. Because you can’t just use the Public Works Act because you like an option more than you like another. You’ve got to give good grounds for the option or for your preference.”

Miller denied that was an option they were pursuing.

“Well the Public Works Act is there to be used to acquire if we need to, and as I said to you we haven’t put in any time, effort into that because I do believe the relationship commercially long term is better to be resolved that way and that’s the way we’re going.”

Centreport is now preparing a third assessment report for a new site, but Miller said he was not keen to share a facility with Bluebridge at Kings Wharf because KiwiRail needed a single-use terminal.

“We needed a rail link span. We have far greater volumes of trucks and cars and passengers that we move, so we probably needed a greater area and how do you divvy up the cost in a single user terminal for that with a competitor?”

Ponter said regardless of KiwiRail’s preferences, ultimately the port company had to accommodate both operators.

In a statement, Bluebridge said it was aware of KiwiRail’s recent proposal to build another wharf adjacent to its site at Kings Wharf, and had provided feedback.

The report is due in the next two months.

In June, the State Owned Enterprises Minister Winston Peters told regional councils he wanted the forum to reconvene and find a solution.

National pledges new tunnel and highway in Wellington transport plan

The National Party has pledged a $4 billion infrastructure package for Wellington and the Hutt Valley if it is voted into government.National Party leader Judith Collins announces the party's $4b transport infrastructure plan for Wellington and the Hutt Valley, on 5 August 2020.

National Party leader Judith Collins announcing the party’s Wellington region transport policy in Petone today. Photo: RNZ / Charlie Dreaver

Leader Judith Collins made the policy announcement in Petone today, as part of its $31b transport infrastructure policy announced last month.

The package includes fast-tracking the construction of a second Mt Victoria Tunnel and building a second Terrace Tunnel.

The party is also promising to construct a new highway connecting Seaview, Lower Hutt, to State Highway 1 north of Wellington and introducing rapid buses or trackless trams between Wellington CBD and the airport.

The Wellington and Hutt Valley transport Package includes:

  • Fast-tracking construction of a second Mt Victoria Tunnel and delivering a second Terrace Tunnel
  • Fixing congestion at the Basin Reserve through grade-separation
  • Rapid transit between Wellington’s CBD and airport in the form of rapid buses or trackless trams
  • Removing highway traffic from Wellington’s inner-city streets by undergrounding SH1 through Te Aro
  • A new highway connecting Seaview in Lower Hutt to SH1 north of Wellington
  • Upgrading Wellington’s metro network, including new trains to improve services between Wellington, Masterton and Palmerston North
  • Widening SH1 to four lanes between Wellington’s CBD and airport (Ruahine St and Wellington Rd)
  • Widening SH2 to four lanes between Silverstream and Whakatiki St in Upper Hutt, and fixing dangerous intersections through new interchanges

Collins said the spending would be in addition to funding already been promised through regional council and government’s Let’s Get Wellington Moving plan and the New Zealand Upgrade Programme.

She said a new Mt Victoria Tunnel will deliver more reliable travel times between Wellington’s CBD and eastern suburbs, as well as the airport.

“This region is choked by congestion. Wellington has the worst traffic in Australasia for a city under one million people,” Collins said.

As part of the package the party is looking to establish a new body to deliver National’s redesigned let’s Get Wellington Moving package.

Transport spokesperson Chris Bishop said a Wellington Transport agency wasn’t a new idea, but it was one that had real merit.

“Transport in Wellington has been a debacle for far too long – we only have to look at the lasagna of failure two years ago with the buses.”

Bishop said at the time the regional council blamed the city council and the city council blamed the regional council.

“Wellingtonians were just left there saying ‘what on earth has gone wrong’ and ‘why can’t the buses go on time anymore?’,” he said.

Labour’s transport spokesperson Phil Twyford agreed a new agency could be a good idea if the councils agreed.

But he hit back at National’s lasagna claim.

“I would say the National Party cooked that lasagna, the bus-tastrophe that happened over the last couple of years was a direct result of the public transport operating framework that National legislated and we’ll be fixing it,” he said.

He also questioned how the National Party would pay for an extra $31 billion in its infrastructure programme on top of what Labour had already committed to.

“They’re not telling Kiwis how they’ll fund these massive promises, what projects are they going to cut?” he said.

Twyford said Labour was committed to a second Victoria Tunnel – however, it had previously pushed back construction to as late as 2029.

Twyford said a second Terrace Tunnel was not priority.

In previous transport announcements National promised to connect Ōtaki to Wellington’s electric commuter train network, fast-track a four-lane expressway from Ōtaki to Levin and a Palmerston North rural ring road.

Harrowing CCTV footage show Kiwis’ near misses with trains

Harrowing CCTV footage released by Kiwirail shows Kiwis' near misses with trains as the...Harrowing CCTV footage released by Kiwirail shows Kiwis’ near misses with trains as the organisation begins its campaign for Rail Safety Week. Photo: KiwirailHarrowing CCTV footage released by Kiwirail shows Kiwis’ near misses with trains as the organisation campaigns for Rail Safety Week.

On average, a New Zealand train driver will experience a near miss every day, according to KiwiRail.

In total, there have been 323 near misses with trains at railway crossings involving cars and pedestrians, according to Rail Safety Week campaign website nearmisses.co.nz.

At public level crossings, there have been 12 collisions and 191 near misses in the past 12 months to June 30 – with the majority involving light vehicles.

To reflect on theses statistics, Kiwirail has shared a video which features a variety of near misses caught on CCTV.

Each incident has been turned into a near-miss memorial at the corresponding train station.

The memorials feature half crosses with barcodes on them, which allow people to scan and watch the harrowing footage.Each incident has been turned into a near-miss memorial at the corresponding train stations....Each incident has been turned into a near-miss memorial at the corresponding train stations. Photo: KiwirailOne includes the “woman in hoodie”, where a woman can be seen looking the other way before seeing the train in the corner of her eye and barely making it across.

The other videos continue to follow a similar pattern, with adults, kids, cyclists and drivers crossing the tracks with a moment to spare.

Locomotive engineer Jeremy also speaks about his experience with near misses in the campaign video.

“Just think when you run in front of a train, there’s someone in there who has to deal with that and try deal with the effects of it,” Jeremy said.

“It’s a real sort of heart-in-your-mouth scenario. It’s someone making a split-second decision and not really thinking about the effect it’s going to have on others.”

KiwiRail Group chief executive Greg Miller said while people might walk or drive away after a near miss, these split-second decisions can cause long-term effects for everyone.

“People are risking their lives and just one second of inattention at a railway crossing can create a circle of trauma rippling outwards – impacting friends and families, our drivers and the community.

“A freight train weighing 1000 tonnes across 30 wagons can take a kilometre to come to a stop once the brakes are applied. It also takes time for the commuter trains in Auckland and Wellington to stop.

“Quite often our locomotive engineers know how it’s going to turn out. They sound the horn, hit the emergency brakes and, often, hit the floor and get behind a safety block.

“They are hoping that against all the odds the person or vehicle will get out of the way in time, and that this won’t become one of the worst days of their lives.”This woman just made it. Photo: KiwirailThis woman just made it. Photo: KiwirailThere has been a drop in recorded near-misses compared to last year, but Miller said that was no reason to relax.

“It’s likely the Covid-19 lockdown has played a part in the drop, as between late March and June near misses halved at level crossings compared with the same time last year.

“However, it’s not just people and vehicles involved in near misses. Last year there were more than 200 near misses involving livestock in the rail corridor. This is highly distressing for the animals and can be too for the farmers who take care of them.”

TrackSAFE NZ Foundation Manager Megan Drayton has also called on people to take greater care when crossing the railway line.

“In the last 12 months, KiwiRail recorded more than 300 near misses across the rail network. Of these, 191 near misses occurred at public level crossings and the majority of those crossings had flashing lights and bells or barrier arms.

“This shows us that even with warning signs and protections in place, some motorists and pedestrians are still either being complacent, or taking unnecessary risks.

“For this year’s campaign, we’re sharing stories of locomotive engineers who have experienced a near miss that’s been caught on camera. It’s a chance for people to hear the drivers’ stories and to put themselves in their position.

“We’ve set up a campaign website where people can explore near-miss memorials, which are locations where there’s be a recorded near miss, mostly at level crossings.

“These near misses are represented by a thought-provoking half cross ‘memorial’ to show the severity of what could have happened and that these people narrowly avoided a serious or fatal collision.”

The week-long campaign is coordinated by KiwiRail and TrackSAFE NZ in close partnership with Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, NZ Police, Auckland Transport, Transdev Auckland, Greater Wellington Regional Council, Transdev Wellington and many other councils throughout New Zealand.

Rail safety advice
• Cross with care – trains can arrive at any time from either direction.
• If you’re driving, obey the warning signs and look carefully in both directions for trains.
• Listen, be aware and pay careful attention to your surroundings.
• Trains can approach faster than you think, and can be quiet. They are heavy and cannot stop quickly.
• Always ensure there is space on the other side of the crossing for your vehicle before crossing the tracks.
• If you’re on foot, only cross at a formed level crossing or an overpass or underpass.
• Remove your headphones, stop and always look both ways for trains before crossing the tracks.
• Only cross if you are sure there are no trains in sight.
• Obey the warning signs at the crossing – if lights are flashing or bells are ringing this means a train is approaching.
• If a train has passed or is stopped at the station, always check both ways again to make sure another train is not coming. Two tracks may mean there is a second train.

KiwiRail replaces two railway bridges in one weekend near Te Puke

New spans in place on Bridge 105.
New spans in place on Bridge 105.

Bay of Plenty Times 6/8/20

Last weekend KiwiRail staff and contractors replaced two railway bridges – Bridge 105 near Pukehina Beach Rd and Bridge 91 just outside Te Puke.

“In order to minimise the disruption to our freight customers, we replaced both bridges over the same weekend,” says KiwiRail chief operating officer, capital projects, David Gordon.

“Freight train services did not run between Te Maunga and Kawerau on Saturday and Sunday.

“We originally planned to do this work during Easter, however, the Covid-19 lockdown period meant we had to reschedule.

David says the old timber bridges had reached the end of their useful life and have now been replaced with modern concrete bridges.

“Upgrading the bridges provides greater resilience for our log, dairy and other freight traffic along this section of the East Coast Main Trunk line.

“The work is part of a wider regional resilience programme funded by the Provincial Growth Fund.”

Firth of Thames best home for a new port for 100-plus years: Auckland Business Chamber (and Cubic agrees)

The suggestion of the Firth of Thames is a
The suggestion of the Firth of Thames is a “brave, big call”. Photo/ Google

By: Andrea Fox Herald business writer andrea.fox@nzme.co.nz

Just when you thought not another report could be wrung out of Auckland’s port future debate, the Auckland Business Chamber is urging all Kiwis to completely “re-imagine” a port for 100-150 years – and it’s pick is in the Firth of Thames.

After staying pretty quiet during a flurry of reports over shifting the Auckland port, the chamber is launching its own take, “A Port for the Future”, which invites the community to use an accepted timeline that the existing port will do for another 25 or so years, to carefully plan another to last more than another century.

And for port observers feeling reported-out, Chamber chief executive Michael Barnett assures “this is not another report”.

“It is an effort by the chamber to get people to re-imagine where a port might be and what would be the best for New Zealand and New Zealand business – not a competition between Auckland and North or Tauranga but an informed discussion of what could be.”

Barnett said the chamber represents the voice of Auckland business without bias, and in this neutral position has stepped back to analyse all the discussion around the relocation of the port from Waitemata Harbour.

“The chamber … now realises that the issue is not just an Auckland problem, but is one that, if done correctly, will bring benefits right across New Zealand.”

The chamber had concluded the existing port was fully sustainable for another 25 to 30 years and that a solution is required beyond that. To provide a port solution beyond the generation after next required vision and a willingness to go beyond the familiar.

Ports of Auckland has 25-30 years of life left in it, says Auckland Business Chamber. Photo / Michael Craig
Ports of Auckland has 25-30 years of life left in it, says Auckland Business Chamber. Photo / Michael Craig

The chamber’s offering makes a case for a man-made island ship exchange terminal in the Firth of Thames, connected by broad gauge rail to a container terminal facility in the vicinity of Pokeno/Meremere.

The island terminal would be “a whole-of-New Zealand” terminal servicing large foreign trade ships handling all import and export containers. The report does not discuss costs but points to several overseas examples to underline there is nothing in the paper that is not tried and proven elsewhere in the world.

“What is running out (for the existing port) is social licence and that’s what’s motivating us to try to accelerate the debate and re-imagine what a port could look like”, Barnett told the Herald.

“What’s been uncomfortable has been the apparent political nature of the discussion so far, it tends to have been personality-driven from the north – almost an anti-Auckland thing. Yet this isn’t about either of those things, it’s about a nation down in the South Pacific dependent on its ability to import and export.

“We need something for the next 100 years and the people of New Zealand should make that choice. It’s not up to a politician or a government.

“(So far) we have re-imagined the port simply by saying ‘let’s pick up Auckland port and take it north (to Northport)’. I’m saying we can do it another way.”

The chamber will widely distribute its paper within the freight, transport and shipping sector and invite comment and discussion directly to the chamber.

The chamber’s analysis concluded there would always be a need for a port in Auckland – “just not as we know it”.

Auckland Business Chamber chief executive Michael Barnett.
Auckland Business Chamber chief executive Michael Barnett.

Social licence issues arising at New Zealand ports were “but the tip of the iceberg and demonstrate that the focus being purely on relocation of the Port of Auckland is extremely narrow and has the potential to lead to a flawed conclusion”, said the paper.

“Ports of Auckland is clearly approaching a sunset phase, however, it is the chamber’s view that the present facility will be capable of handling existing throughput plus growth for several years to come … (but) it is inevitable and acknowledged by the chamber, that the port’s container facilities will be shifted from the present location to another site.”

The paper said volume growth and investment required at the Port of Tauranga, along with “other issues starting to emerge” made it “pretty safe to assume that the Tauranga terminal will also be looking for a new location in future”. In four weeks the Tauranga port handled as many containers as Wellington’s port in a year.

Current modelling showed that with the construction of the future city of Drury South, the Auckland-Hamilton-Tauranga triangle would encompass four of New Zealand’s six largest cities.

Over the next 30 years the population in the area between greater Auckland and Taupo was forecast to grow by 7.8 per cent a year. During this time the rest of New Zealand’s population was predicted to grow by 2 per cent a year and by 3.6 per cent north of Auckland.

The option of developing a new port at Manukau Harbour raised in earlier reports was indeed an option when considered just in the context of Auckland, the paper said.

“However it is not compatible with the chamber’s objective of providing a future solution that will benefit NZ Inc. Throughout … the chamber has avoided introducing untested or yet to be implemented technology as will be required to overcome the hazardous conditions presented by the Manukau Harbour entrance.”

The Firth of Thames had been looked at in studies over the past 25 years.

“Unfortunately the concept appears to be too far out of the mainstream for people to understand, especially as it has only been viewed as a solution solely for Auckland and suggest constructions methods based on the traditional.”

The paper details modern construction methods used overseas.

Barnett concedes the chamber’s suggestion of the Firth of Thames is a “brave, big call” given the environmental, wildlife and iwi concerns that are likely to be raised against it.

But with time on New Zealand’s side for consultation, research, innovation and planning, problems could be properly addressed and hopefully overcome.

Barnett, a veteran of port group discussions over the years, worked with ports consultant Tony Boyle to produce the paper. The project cost did not exceed $10,000, he said.

“But I like to think it is rich in intention.”

New initiatives at KiwiRail’s Southdown container transfer site

The following announcement from KiwiRail concerns changes at Southdown.

We’re proud that our Southdown Container Transfer site is the third largest container handling facility in New Zealand and a critical part of many of our customers’ supply chains. Each year we handle around 450,000 TEU through this site.

Over the past five years we’ve invested over $30 million at Southdown to improve service, resilience and support growth:

• Truck entry laneways have been streamlined for KiwiRail, MetroPort and MetroBox container flows
• New top lifters to meet the growing freight volumes
• New reefer towers to handle increasing demand for temperature controlled cargo
• Upgraded rail grids for MetroPort
• Improved site traffic management systems

We’re now about to introduce two new initiatives to further improve the speed and flow of containers through Southdown for our road transport partners.

Vehicle Booking System to speed-up container throughput

With up to 1,200 trucks visiting our Southdown site each day to either deliver and/or uplift containers, and with only the Port of Tauranga’s Metroport part of the site currently operating a Vehicle Booking System (VBS) we are aware that congestion can become a real issue at certain times, as a result of trucking operators having to queue up to enter the site.

To ensure that the whole site is able to run more smoothly and to provide a more streamlined and faster process for all of our customers, KiwiRail is going to introduce a VBS which will apply to all non-Metroport volumes later this year. This will result in a reduction in average truck queueing times across the whole site.

The VBS will be an online tool, using the same product as that used by the Port of Tauranga’s Metroport operation at Southdown.

This will mean that not only will the whole site now use a VBS, but by having the same system as that already in place with Metroport, it should significantly improve the experience for many operators.

By being able to book specific container delivery or uplift timeslots, it will enable truck arrivals at the site to be more evenly spread across each day.

This will result in faster truck turn times due to reduced queuing times, thereby increasing truck productivity and efficiency and provide a general improvement in on-site safety through a reduction in overall site congestion.

Having the same VBS will also help minimise any training requirements, as trucking companies currently servicing Metroport will already be very familiar with using it and for any new users, we will be arranging all necessary training for your staff at no cost to you.

While there will be a cost for the use of the VBS, just as with all other such systems, we are firmly of the view that the improvements this will provide transport operators through increases in fleet productivity, will provide much greater value than the system’s cost to use.

Please note that we are not currently intending to introduce a VBS at any other of our container transfer sites at this time.

We will provide further updates on this initiative once we have a confirmed start date for the system, including how we plan to roll out the required training we will be providing to all new users.

Certified Weighbridge

We are also going to be installing a brand new, fully certified weighbridge at our Southdown site which will be available for use by both customers and the general public.

It will be positioned near the entrance of the site, so it is easily accessible not just for truck operators wishing to enter the site, but also for those who simply want to have their trucks check-weighed.

At this stage we expect the weighbridge to be commissioned and available for use before the end of the year and we will provide you with more information about processes and proposed charges for using it, prior to it becoming operational.

We trust you will find these as positive enhancements to our services and we look forward to being able to commission both in the near future.

Transport lobby opposes port move north

Northport should stick to what it's already doing according to the trucking industry. Photo / Tania Whyte
Northport should stick to what it’s already doing according to the trucking industry. Photo / Tania Whyte

NZ Insights By: Imran Ali

The National Road Carriers’ Association has released a report it commissioned from TG Enterprises, which opposes shifting Ports of Auckland to Whangārei, saying it would be logistically impractical and cost-prohibitive to do so, while increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

The report, based on interviews with trucking companies and stakeholders, concluded that Auckland’s port provided the best value for money and should continue in its current location until it could not cope with future growth, which it expected would be at least 30 years away.

But those lobbying for the move to Northport, including former Far North mayor Wayne Brown and Northland Mayoral Forum chairman Jason Smith, say the argument for the status quo lacks logic.

With a focus on road freight, the report said the issue was not port location but the efficiency and safety of road (and rail) access to the upper North Island ports of Northport, Auckland and Tauranga. It said servicing customers by road freight from Northport would be nearly eight times more expensive, or more than $1 billion annually, than from Ports of Auckland.

An analysis of road freight cost showed a container truck that made five trips a day between Ports of Auckland and South Auckland for $50 would be only able to achieve one from Northport, at an estimated cost of $230.

“With Auckland’s business growth moving south, and Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty dominating the upper North Island’s economic growth, Northport is too far away,” the report said, while moving to Whangārei would add more than 125,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year for container road freight, compared with about 27,000 tonnes from Ports of Auckland to South Auckland.

That would seriously undermine New Zealand’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, it said.

“The decision to move the port from Auckland to Northport is being rushed. We need to stop. Take stock. Reassess,” the report added.

But Brown said the association had a vested interest ensuring that the port didn’t move north.

He described claims about greenhouse gas emissions, as “total and absolute crap,” saying goods transported to and from Northport by rail freight would mean less pollution and traffic congestion.

“At the moment, more stuff goes to Auckland from Tauranga, which is further away from Northport. Milk from Northland goes to Tauranga for export,” he said.

“Auckland is planning 50,000 houses in the south and 86,000 houses north of (the city). Where are the biggest new commercial businesses like IKEA and Costco going? To West Auckland, not south,” Brown said.

He led the Upper North Island Supply Chain (Unisc) working group, whose report promised an economic boom for Northland if the $10 billion port move happened.

“There’s nothing that will make Northland do better than shifting the port from Auckland,” he said.

Smith said the days of Ports of Auckland were numbered, whereas Northport offered the best deepwater port in the upper North Island.

“Everyone is aware of the growth in Waikato and further south, but the next era of growth in New Zealand will, in my view, be on the north side of Auckland,” he said.

“Ships will be getting bigger in future, and the risk for New Zealand is they won’t be able to come here. That’s where the deepwater port at Northport has an advantage.”

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones said the report was built around fear and apprehension, citing points of weakness in the state of the trucking industry.

“We’ll see more electric trucks in future, but for now we see a significant role for rail, and I think the trucking industry is churlish in not acknowledging the $700 million put aside for a four-lane highway out of Whangārei heading south,” Jones said.

Through its Provincial Growth Fund, the Government has provided $300 million for work on the existing rail line between Auckland and Whangārei.

Residents feel railroaded by KiwiRail freight centre plans

KiwiRail’s road and rail freight centre is planned for Railway Rd, just beyond Palmerston North Airport.
SUPPLIEDKiwiRail’s road and rail freight centre is planned for Railway Rd, just beyond Palmerston North Airport.

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Residents living in the path of KiwiRail’s planned freight centre near Palmerston North are reeling as they realise the effect it will have on their properties and lives.

“Our lifestyles haven’t just been thrown under a bus, they have been thrown under a 1.5-kilometre-long fully laden freight train,” said Parrs Rd resident Maree Woods.

She said people in the area between the airport and Bunnythorpe were used to trains going past, but not to shunting yards operating around the clock.

Woods was also worried about traffic patterns once Railway Rd, a busy route from the city to Bunnythorpe and Feilding, was absorbed into the railway yards.

The site for the 2.5km-long KiwiRail centre was announced by Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones in Palmerston North on Thursday.

The planning and land acquisition needed for the development were being paid for from a $40m Provincial Growth Fund grant.

KiwiRail held information sessions about its plans before the Covid-19 lockdown, but delayed the announcement of the site until last week.

A ground-level view of the proposed KiwiRail road and rail freight centre.
SUPPLIEDA ground-level view of the proposed KiwiRail road and rail freight centre.

Roberts Line resident Dee Wallace was one of about 70 people who received letters on Wednesday telling them their properties would be affected.

She had to wait until the formal announcement to find out what the effects would be.

“We are going to be looking straight at it from across the road.”

Her family had for 13 years lived in a 1903 villa that was the original farmhouse in the area.

They had spent a lot of time and money restoring it to its original character.

“It is our forever home.”

Her children, and children she looked after under home-care arrangements, had grown up enjoying the rural lifestyle, being able to feed a calf and pat the sheep.

“It’s actually very peaceful.”

As well as the freight centre itself, it was likely a new access road for trucks would join Roberts Line just outside their gate.

Wallace said she understood the development would create jobs, eventually, “but at what expense?”

KiwiRail’s road and rail centre will transform a semi-rural area into a huge industrial park.
WARWICK SMITH/STUFFKiwiRail’s road and rail centre will transform a semi-rural area into a huge industrial park.

Clevely Line resident Tarsha Isles said she believed the KiwiRail development would be a great thing for Palmerston North, but the implications for her family were devastating.

They would lose their home of seven years.

Isles Construction, in which she is a director, had only recently moved a new home into the area.

Her parents Desma and Bob Isles moved into their house just before Christmas and still kept a watchful eye on the family home they built 33 years ago.

“So we are actually losing three houses.

“It’s still very fresh.

“I’m shocked and devastated, but I understand this is a really important thing that needs to happen.”

Kairanga-Bunnythorpe Rd resident Aaron Fox will be living about 500 metres away from the centre, which would transform a semi-rural lifestyle area into “a huge operation on the doorstep”.

He said he did not oppose progress, but was shocked by the lack of consultation.

Fox said city mayor Grant Smith and city councillors should be standing up for locals, to make sure their interests were protected.

“Let’s make sure it works for everybody.”

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones was in Manawatū on Thursday to announce initial funding for the rail yards.
WARWICK SMITH/STUFFRegional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones was in Manawatū on Thursday to announce initial funding for the rail yards.

Fox said promises the development would create hundreds of jobs and attract billions of dollars of investment should be questioned.

“At the moment people are talking about a lot of zeroes. I wonder what story book they are reading.”

KiwiRail’s investment and capital transactions general manager Olivia Poulsen said visits had started with the owners of the 70-odd properties that would be affected.

About 40 properties were likely to be bought. The other 30 would be neighbours and some of their land might be needed to create buffer zones to manage the effects of the centre beyond the boundaries.

“Our intention is to minimise land acquisition as much as possible.”

Public consultation would influence the final design.

KiwiRail expected to lodge an application to designate the land by the end of September.

NZ firms Fletchers and Downer ‘fuming’ as $371m Govt KiwiRail contract goes overseas

Construction companies Fletcher and Downer are reportedly “fuming” after a $371 million Government rail contract has been awarded to overseas companies – costing the Kiwi firms hundreds of local jobs.

Greg Miller, chief executive of KiwiRail at the Otahuhu Auckland depot amongst the trains and shipping containers. NZ Herald Photo by Alex Burton 30 August 2019
Greg Miller, chief executive of KiwiRail at the Otahuhu Auckland depot amongst the trains and shipping containers. NZ Herald Photo by Alex Burton 30 August 2019

One source within Fletchers said the team that worked on the tender is “fuming” that overseas firms have been awarded the Government contract.

The source said the contract would have saved many of the 1000 local jobs slashed late last month in response to Covid-19 economic losses.

John Holland reportedly has only around 10 New Zealand-based staff. Neither John Holland nor McConnell Dowell responded to the Herald on Sunday’s requests for comment.

The contract was one of three projects under KiwiRail’s $1 billion Auckland Metro Rail Programme, which also includes the $315m third main line out of Auckland between Wiri and Quay Park, and further support for the $4.4b City Rail Link.

Fletcher Building chief executive Ross Taylor. Photo/Greg Bowker.
Fletcher Building chief executive Ross Taylor. Photo/Greg Bowker.

KiwiRail chief operating officer of capital projects David Gordon would not confirm the contract was already decided.

“We have not concluded negotiations with any party for this contract, but can confirm we are in discussions with a preferred supplier,” Gordon said.

“We cannot confirm who that preferred supplier is at this time, nor can we disclose information on the individual tenders.”

The KiwiRail Papakura to Pukekohe project - expected to begin at the end of 2020 - includes electrification of 19km of track currently only available to diesel trains in South Auckland. Photo / File
The KiwiRail Papakura to Pukekohe project – expected to begin at the end of 2020 – includes electrification of 19km of track currently only available to diesel trains in South Auckland. Photo / File

The Herald on Sunday was told awarding the contract to John Holland and McConnell Dowell came down to a cheaper tender.

Gordon admitted price estimates were a factor in judging the applications.

“We can confirm that the weighting applied for the contract, and disclosed to bidders at the outset of the process, was 70 per cent for non-price attributes and 30 per cent for price,” Gordon said.

“All bidders were required to demonstrate how they will support New Zealand manufacturing and industry for the materials supplied.”

Steve Killeen is chief executive of Downer New Zealand. Photo supplied to the New Zealand Herald
Steve Killeen is chief executive of Downer New Zealand. Photo supplied to the New Zealand Herald

Minister for State Owned Enterprises, Winston Peters, would not be drawn on the wisdom of the KiwiRail electrification contract going overseas, but pointed out the unsuccessful firms could still win another $315m Auckland rail project soon.

“KiwiRail cannot be influenced by ministers in their tender process, and must follow government procurement rules, which at this time do not allow them to discriminate against foreign-owned companies,” Peters said.

“However, companies that work on infrastructure projects, whether foreign-owned or locally owned, are encouraged to use New Zealand sub-contractors and workers wherever possible.”

He said Fletchers could still apply for the major Wiri to Quay Park project.

“If Fletchers claim that they are laying off 1000 staff due to missing this tender then such an excusatory claim won’t meet close scrutiny – because it is simply not true.”

The $371m project to electrify 19km of track is expected to begin at the end of the year and includes two more platforms at Pukekohe station and future proofing for extra lines.

Only diesel trains can operate between Papakura and Pukekohe, so passengers from south of Papakura must switch trains to get to and from the city.

Electrification will improve commuter capacity.

KiwiRail chairman Greg Miller (left), acting chief executive Todd Moyle, Deputy PM Winston Peters and Regional Development Minister Shane Jones. 31 January 2018 Northern Advocate Photo by Tania Whyte
KiwiRail chairman Greg Miller (left), acting chief executive Todd Moyle, Deputy PM Winston Peters and Regional Development Minister Shane Jones. 31 January 2018 Northern Advocate Photo by Tania Whyte

Trains stop running signalling start of rail project for Northland

Trains have stopped running between Auckland and Whangārei to allow for preparatory work on a project to revitalise Northland rail. Photo / Supplied
Trains have stopped running between Auckland and Whangārei to allow for preparatory work on a project to revitalise Northland rail. Photo / Supplied

Northern Advocate


Trains on the line from Auckland to Whangārei have stopped, signalling the start of work on the $204.5 million Provincial Growth Fund project to revitalise Northland rail.

The start of major work replacing bridges, improving tunnels and upgrading the rail line to Whangārei will result in more reliable train services and enable more freight to be carried by rail, KiwiRail group chief executive Greg Miller said.

KiwiRail is upgrading the Northland Line to improve journey times, resilience and reliability and, from last Sunday, no more train services will run between Swanson and Whangarei to allow substantial upgrade work to begin.

The work includes replacing five aging bridges and lowering tracks in the 13 tunnels, so when completed, trains will be able to pull hi-cube containers on the Northland Line.

“While our teams were able to continue design and planning work during the lockdown, Covid-19 halted most work on the ground. We’ve also been waiting on the arrival of specialist track-laying equipment which has been held up by pandemic disruptions,” Miller said.

“The work will be completed in stages, with the first objective being able to carry hi-cube containers through the tunnels between Whangarei and Auckland by Christmas.”

Being able to carry hi-cube containers would also allow freight that can currently only come in and out of Northland by road to instead go by rail. That additional transport option could help cut transport emissions and reduce the number of trucks on the roads.

Miller said KiwiRail was committed to ensuring Northland benefited from the upgrade project, with a focus on using local contractors and suppliers where possible.

Local firm United Civil Construction has the contract to replace two of the bridges, all the ballast materials for the track upgrades are being supplied by Clements in Whangarei, and Busck, also in Whangarei, is supplying thousands of concrete sleepers.

Next year KiwiRail will continue to make improvements to the Northland Line, including reopening the mothballed section of line between Kauri and Otiria and building a container exchange at Otiria.

State-Owned Enterprises Minister Winston Peters said at least 200 contractors and staff would be needed to undertake the upgrade work and KiwiRail would be using Northland people and businesses wherever possible.

“That will see tens of millions of dollars going into the regional economy, creating jobs and spending that will help Northland recover from the lockdown and impacts of Covid-19,” Peters said.

“We’re making sure that Northland has access to the same rail services that other export regions have had for decades but this substantial government investment will also help boost Northland’s economy right now.”