Rail rethink needs open mind, not eyes closed

The Government could earn some much-needed brownie points if, instead of dismissing out of hand a report into the viability of the Gisborne to Napier rail line out, it looked at its recommendations with an open mind, Gisborne-based Labour MP Moana Mackey says.

“The BERL report shows the line is far closer to breaking even than previously thought and could even be profitable within a few years.

"How disappointing, then, to hear Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce on radio this morning completely writing it off. 

"The reason the community fund-raised for and commissioned the BERL report was because it didn’t believe KiwiRail's case for mothballing the line stacked up. This has been confirmed by the BERL analysis.

“If the Government is to truly engage with the local community it must keep an open mind when reviewing the report and be prepared to make a decision based on the evidence, not on a pre-conceived assumption that the rail line could never be economically viable.

“It should take on board the recommendation that a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis - that also considers the broader economic benefits of retaining this vital rail link, not just to the Gisborne-Hawkes Bay economy but to the country as a whole – be undertaken.

"As a provincially isolated exporting region transport links are crucial, as is a mix of transport options - rail, roads and coastal shipping. To remove any one of these links without carrying out a proper analysis of the impact of such a move is unacceptable.

"Government Ministers are due to meet with community leaders and representatives in the next few weeks.

“Let’s hope they can put their prejudices aside and listen to the compelling evidence that supports retaining the Gisborne to Napier rail line.”