Minister May Mothball Line


Transport Minister Steven Joyce has confirmed plans to mothball the Gisborne-Hawke’s Bay rail line “if the right commercial outcomes can’t be found.”

As Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay council and business leaders meet KiwiRail in Gisborne to discuss saving the line, the minister has made his position clear in a reply to questions from Napier-based Labour list MP Stuart Nash.

The Minister says:

‘KiwiRail will consult with the business and wider community in order to find suitable anchor customers. Currently, the line is carrying only one scheduled freight service per week. If the right commercial outcomes cannot be found then the first step would be to mothball the line to provide time for opportunities to develop’.

Mr Nash says he will support any move by local councils to ensure the Gisborne-Hawke’s Bay rail network remains open, as National has made no effort to protect this vital infrastructure link for our community.

“The Minister is admitting that nothing has been done to market the line. KiwiRail has not spent any money in direct marketing campaigns as it doesn’t ‘consider it to be value for money given the current and potential customers in the region are well known to the business’. This is a very poor approach to market development and business growth.

“KiwiRail has a branch manager in Napier together with a salesperson based in Palmerston North who covers the Gisborne-Hawke’s Bay region. If KiwiRail was committed to our region they would have a salesperson based in either Napier or Gisborne to ensure all opportunities to maximise rail’s potential can be developed.”

Mr Nash also said that currently there are no container facilities at Gisborne Port, meaning businesses exporting containerised goods have the choice of shipping out of either Napier or Tauranga.

“To ensure robust economic growth for our region we need to encourage businesses to export via the Port of Napier. A well-supported dynamic rail network means we can strongly market Napier Port as the most economic option,” he said.

“A revitalised rail link is integral to the economic development of the East Coast. I care about this even if the Government doesn’t. Closing down or continuing to neglect the Gisborne-Hawke’s Bay rail network would be a backward step that would take our city a long time to recover from.”




  1. Rob Askew says:

    I do agree. The current business plan for the railway just does not suit the freight in the region. KiwiRail needs to market the line, put daily passenger rail services (possibly with a refurbished Silver Fern)and market the “living daylights” out of it.

    Steven Joyce and his truck lobby supporters know no other than closure or moth-balling. His approach is not one of an entrepreneur which helped him make his fortune, but one of a person in the pocket of a wealthy lobby who,incidently,dislikes rail.

  2. Matt L says:

    While freight does need to pick up and perhaps Kiwirail adopt a different business plan for the line it is a shame we can’t mothball the minister as he seems to be stuck with 60′ thinking

  3. Andrew says:

    I’d suggest selling him off if I didn’t suspect he’d already sold out.

  4. Brent C says:

    I spent the day in Gisborne yesturday and went for a wonder at lunch time. To my suprise the bells started ringing and a train went past!

    The deport looks a little run down and there was no sign of Kiwi Rail anywhere, it was all still branded under the old Tranz rail logo.

    I agree with Rob. I had a convosation with my father about the opportunities of running passenger services along the route. With the scenery of the route, there must be potential to run routes, specially over the summer months when Gisborne is thriving. The railway station would need a makeover, which could easily be done and used as a cafe.

  5. Chris says:

    Joyce is indeed stuck in the 80s. Such myopic views and thinking!

  6. Jon R says:

    I think KiwiRail could shock themselves with the success of a passenger service on this line. Are they entrepreneurial enough to make it work? Perhaps use just one silver fern at first to build up patronage, as Rob suggested?

  7. Matt says:

    If the line gets mothballed, it’ll never reopen if Joyce is still in charge. By the time the rumoured forestry company comes on-stream in ’12, the line will have deteriorated even further. Joyce will say “It’s too expensive for KR to upgrade the tracks, the tenant will have to bear the full cost.” ,,,, the line will be closed “because we have been unable to secure an anchor tenant within a reasonable time frame.”
    It’s essential that it remain open, and in use, even if it’s making a loss at present. At least it *has* a tenant at the moment, which will not remain the case if it’s mothballed. If they can get a bunch of Gisborne-based exporters to band together for even a fortnightly train to Napier for cross-handling onto ships, that’s a bunch more income. Add a passenger service, even once a week, and that’s more income again. Suddenly the required subsidy has shrunk dramatically, and the line’s closer to breaking even while a major user is found. I doubt it’ll be hard to convince exporters who don’t have time-critical products to support the railway, either, but it will require that someone at least *try*.
    Jon C: Matt I have edited your comment where the dots are. I agree with people who have complained that you can disagree with Joyce but lets not make it that personal please!


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