It was great to be able to attend ANZAC Day services in the Wairoa district this year. The dawn service at Mahia was spectacular with the sun rising out of the water just as the last post was being played. Thanks very much to Peter Brady and his team at Kaiuku Marae for once again putting on such a memorable service with an outstanding breakfast. Great to see my old mate Rangi Kamau serving behind the bar. We played 1st XV rugby together at Napier Boys High. Rangi was a bit of a legend in our day. Quite the trend setter bringing a pair of white boots back from a 1st XV trip to Canada that we both enjoyed!
I want to write about Wairoa’s infrastructure this week. The Government has recently made a $20 million investment into the new Matahorua overbridge, making a huge difference on that stretch of road. We are about to commence a $5 million upgrade to the old Wairoa Hospital site, another important investment in upgrading local assets. And in the last few weeks we announced an additional $2 million investment into Mahia sewerage treatment.
Another important piece of infrastructure is the Napier to Gisborne rail line. Any decision KiwiRail makes about its future needs to be made carefully with due consideration to the impact on the roads. The line must also be able to meet both its operating costs (fuel, wages etc) and capital costs (new bridges, new sleepers, etc). Just like at home you not only need to be able to pay the food and power bills, you also need to be able to pay the mortgage or the rent.
The line is expected to be able to pay for necessary investment over the next few years, such as replacing all the sleepers and renewing the Ahuriri Estuary bridge. Kiwirail is currently assessing these costs and will report back to Mayors and the local community in the next few weeks.
I visited Panpac recently as I assumed that they would be a key customer for rail. It is not until you learn that over 50% of Panpac's forests lie up the Napier Taupo road (with no rail access) that you understand why investment in a truck fleet for them is so important. These facts are important to understand when considering the future sustainability of the Napier to Gisborne line.
In saying this I am encouraged by the serious approach that Kiwirail is taking to the future of the line. Recent freight increases have been a step in the right direction. A decision to repair and retain the rail or to close it will be made with all the facts.