Rail plans full steam ahead

The Bay Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - JENNY LING

The Bay of Is­lands Vin­tage Rail­way is rapt the re­source con­sent for a new rail­way sta­tion and cy­cle­way com­plex to be con­structed in the Far North has been granted.

The project in­volves restor­ing and ex­tend­ing the rail­way line from Kawakawa to Opua, and cre­at­ing a cy­cle­way along­side it, and build­ing a large multi-pur­pose rail­way sta­tion com­plex at Beau­fort St, Opua in the area known as the Colenso Tri­an­gle.

Trains would run eight times a day, the nearby wet­land would be re­stored and de­vel­oped, and at least 25 jobs would be cre­ated.

Now the hunt is on to find fun­ders for the $5.2mil­lion project, with pri­vate in­vestors, large grants and loans all wel­comed. Project chair­man Frank Leadley says it’s a ‘‘huge plus’’ for the whole re­gion.

‘‘We can now pro­ceed with con­fi­dence with gain­ing fund­ing for the restora­tion of the North Is­land’s his­toric first rail­way line and in de­vel­op­ing a tourist com- plex which will be huge for the re­gion in terms of em­ploy­ment and in its in­trin­sic in­ter­est.

‘‘We have a mas­sive job ahead of us as we are look­ing at rais­ing around $5.2mil­lion for the project, but we have great com­mu­nity sup­port and are con­fi­dent we will reach our tar­gets.’’

The process started in Oc­to­ber 2016 and sub­mis­sions closed in Novem­ber.

There were 121 sub­mis­sions re­ceived by North­land Re­gional Coun­cil and 113 by Far North Dis­trict Coun­cil, which were over- whelm­ingly in sup­port of the rail­way pro­posal.

How­ever, there were a few sub­mis­sions which ex­pressed con­cerns over ef­fects of the de­vel­op­ment on a small area of swamp and any bird life, and cul­tural and his­toric ef­fects.

Sub­mit­ters had their say at a two-day hear­ing in April con­ducted by Dr Rob Li­ef­fer­ing. Li­ef­fer­ing’s sub­se­quent re­port ap­proved the project with con­di­tions re­lat­ing to storm wa­ter, sed­i­ment con­trol, weed con­trol, ar­chae­ol­ogy.

Leadley says the repil­ing of Long­bridge should be fin­ished in three weeks. Then, de­pend­ing on fund­ing, they’ll start work restor­ing the rail­way line and build­ing the cy­cle­way.

The sta­tion com­plex will in­clude toi­lets, a cy­cle re­pair and hire shop, a cafe, event cen­tre and park­ing for 60 cars plus buses and mo­torhomes.

‘‘It’s one of the biggest tourism projects in the North, if not the biggest,’’ Leadley says.

If you ‘‘can spare a few bob’’ con­tact Frank 09 402 7650.

An artist’s im­pres­sion of the planned Bay of Is­lands Vin­tage Rail­way sta­tion com­plex in Opua.

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