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Rail investment ‘significant boost’ for Northland

Northland Inc’s Vaughan Cooper has welcomed the government’s decision to invest in the maintenance and improvement of the region’s rail line, describing it as a "significant boost" for the local economy.

The announcement of a $94.8 million investment through the Provincial Growth Fund for much-needed work on the line between Swanson and Whangarei was made at Helensville Railway Station on Friday by Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones.

"It is imperative that we keep upgrading our infrastructure, and the work on the North Auckland Line will undoubtedly make Northland a more reliable, more connected region for our community," says Vaughan Northland Inc’s acting CEO.

"It is vital that we also take steps to address our over-reliance on the roads in Northland and reduce congestion and lower emissions; this investment is a significant boost and ensures that rail remains a viable option within the region, while improving our connections with the rest of New Zealand."

With more than 90 per cent of freight in Northland currently transported by road, Vaughan believes the new investment in rail will go a long way to substantially redressing that disparity.

"The benefits for our region will be positive and far-reaching," he added.

The investment will include replacing and upgrading some 54km of the 181km North Auckland Line – much of which is at least 100 years old; the replacement of thousands of sleepers and the addition of 50,000 cubic metres of ballast; the replacement of five ageing wooden bridges with concrete structures; the strengthening of tunnels with steel ribs; the clearance of drains and culverts; and the widening of nine embankments.

Minister Jones also highlighted the direct benefits for the local economy.

"Not only does it set the right conditions for KiwiRail to grow its freight business, but wherever possible it will be using Northland-based contractors to carry out work. It will look to Northland first if they recruit more track staff, as well sourcing materials in Northland," he says.

"The initiative will see millions of dollars being injected into Northland, helping to stimulate the region’s growth. I’m proud that PGF funding has been able to make this happen."

The improvement of transport infrastructure and services was identified as a key priority in the Tai Tokerau Northland Economic Action Plan (TTNEAP), which is being facilitated and supported by Northland Inc, the region’s economic development agency.

Launched in 2016 and refreshed in 2019, the TTNEAP brings into focus a group of projects that together are contributing to the transformation of Northland’s economy.

Progress is being made through identifying opportunities and inspiring innovation to encourage further investment, boosting sustainable jobs and productivity, building capability and empowering and engaging communities to reach their full potential.

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