What can be done for North­land?

The Northland Age - - Local Life / Opinion -

As a politi­cian from North­land I am al­ways think­ing about how I can help make our re­gion more pros­per­ous so we can all en­joy higher in­comes and living stan­dards.

Led by Win­ston Peters, NZ First iden­ti­fied the very poor trans­port links that our re­gion has with the rest of the coun­try, and in­ter­na­tion­ally, as a major bar­rier to us achiev­ing these goals. Whether it is by road, rail or air, ac­cess to good trans­port is an is­sue faced by all North­land res­i­dents and busi­nesses. And I have been very vo­cal since becoming a Min­is­ter on these short­com­ings. I also recog­nise it’s not just in North­land, but all our re­gions out­side the main ci­ties.

Ten days ago I re­leased an ini­tial re­port from a group that we sup­ported through the Provin­cial Growth Fund to look at freight trans­port in the Up­per North Is­land, and how the ex­ist­ing air­ports, rail links and roads con­trib­ute to or hin­der eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. For­mer Far North Mayor Wayne Brown, who chaired the group, and his col­leagues have done a very good job in point­ing out how the cur­rent freight sys­tem dis­ad­van­tages North­land.

Our port has no link to the main North­land rail line, which has not been mod­ernised to pro­vide for the trans­port of mod­ern con­tain­ers. In­stead it has been starved of in­vest­ment by suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments, who have re­fused to pro­vide Ki­wiRail with the re­sources to invest in mod­ern fa­cil­i­ties.

If we look at other re­gions, such as the Bay of Plenty, and par­tic­u­larly Tau­ranga, we can see how the com­bi­na­tion of ports, rail and road links can help re­gions achieve their pro­duc­tive po­ten­tial. The good road and rail links from the wider Bay of Plenty and the Waikato have made the Port of Tau­ranga the largest in the coun­try, sup­port­ing these re­gions in de­vel­op­ing their forestry, hor­ti­cul­ture and dairy in­dus­tries. Tau­ranga and its sur­round­ing re­gion have seen ex­plo­sive growth over many decades as a re­sult.

Win­ston Peters and I be­lieve that the rail link to North­land and the connection to North­port at Mars­den Point can make sim­i­lar con­tri­bu­tions to the pros­per­ity of Whanga¯rei and the wider North­land re­gion.

Wayne Brown’s group will now start work­ing on more de­tailed analy­ses of the op­tions for the de­vel­op­ment of trans­port links in the Up­per North Is­land. I ex­pect their rec­om­men­da­tions will have major im­pli­ca­tions for the de­vel­op­ment of North­port, in­clud­ing links from the port to the rail line. An­other re­port due out within weeks will look at what needs to be done to up­grade the main North­land rail line, how much it will cost, and what ben­e­fits we can ex­pect from that in­vest­ment.

This con­cen­trated ef­fort by the gov­ern­ment on is­sues associated with trans­port in North­land is the re­sult of the ad­vo­cacy of the deputy Prime Min­is­ter and me, as Min­is­ter for Re­gional Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment. It re­flects our de­ter­mi­na­tion to en­sure that the pros­per­ity en­joyed by other re­gions as a re­sult of their rail and port fa­cil­i­ties is also en­joyed by the peo­ple and busi­nesses of North­land.

"If we look at other re­gions, such as the Bay of Plenty, and par­tic­u­larly Tau­ranga, we can see how the com­bi­na­tion of ports, rail and road links can help re­gions achieve their pro­duc­tive po­ten­tial."

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