City charged ‘too much’ to use rail corridor as cycleway
KiwiRail is being accused of charging an ‘‘exorbitant’’ amount of money to allow the Christchurch City Council to use its rail corridor as a cycleway.
Negotiations between the organisations have almost reached a stalemate which has led to the cycleway’s progress being delayed.
The council wants to build most of its 10 kilometre-long Northern Line cycleway on the rail corridor from Blenheim Rd to Main North Rd. Half the route already exists as a popular walkway and cycleway, and the council wants to use another 3.5km to extend the path at both ends.
A peppercorn rental has historically been charged by KiwiRail for use of the rail corridor.
But KiwiRail has introduced a nationwide cycleway policy, which requires the council to gain a license to occupy the land and pay a rental, which a KiwiRail spokeswoman said was significantly discounted from market values.
Christchurch city councillor Phil Clearwater said KiwiRail was asking the council for a ‘‘huge rent’’, which he believed was ‘‘exorbitant’’.
‘‘I think that is ridiculous. KiwiRail is a state-owned enterprise. The people that are going to have to pay this rent are going to be the local and national government. They are robbing Peter to pay Paul.’’
Clearwater would not say what the exact rental figure was, but The Press understands it is close to $100,000 per annum.
The historical peppercorn rental was quite reasonable and showed one form of transport supporting another, Clearwater said.
‘‘I can only surmise they want to make a huge profit at the expense of taxpayers and ratepayers. I don’t think it’s fair.’’
He questioned how KiwiRail determined the land’s market value as he was unsure who else would want to use a rail corridor.
Council transport head Chris Gregory told the council’s infrastructure, transport and environment committee on Thursday staff had almost reached a stalemate with KiwiRail over the rental figure. He said the issue had been elevated to a national level by staff.
The committee also recommended the council write to the relevant Government ministers.
The council’s bimonthly transport report said the cycleway’s route had been approved for design and construction, but detailed design could not be completed until the KiwiRail leases were signed.
A KiwiRail spokeswoman said the council had originally requested 6212 square metres of rail corridor and KiwiRail offered the council a significant discount off the land’s market value. The council accepted this figure.
However, the council then requested 32,594sqm of rail corridor for the cycleway. KiwiRail had the land independently valued and proposed a new rental cost. It discounted the rental for the cycleway in its entirety, the spokeswoman said. ‘‘The council has not responded to this offer, nor has it ever made a formal counter-offer which would be normal practice.’’
KiwiRail would not say what the market value for the land was, citing commercial sensitivity. It would also not confirm how much it was charging the council because negotiations were ongoing.
‘‘KiwiRail supports the development of cycleways across our rail network and where they interact with our rail corridor and assets.’’
Council planning and delivery manager Lynette Ellis said the council was working closely with KiwiRail to negotiate conditions to lease land along the rail corridor. She would not comment further.