Dargaville rail link considered

by Paul Campbell

A new report to the government has factored in a reopened rail link to Dargaville as part of an upgrade of Northland’s rail network if a decision is made to expand Northport and transfer cargo operations from Auckland.

The Ministry of Transport has told the government the cost of upgrading the rail line between Auckland and Whangarei, reopening the tracks north to Moerewa and west to Dargaville, and constructing a new spur east to Northport, is estimated cost $1.3b for 40 years — with $730m going in the first four years of construction.

The report is regarded as significant, with the 2019 Budget scheduled for release on Thursday, May 30.

Regional Economic Development minister Shane Jones has gone on record, saying “rail obviously is going to enjoy great attention coming up in the Budget, but I’ll leave it to my leader [Winston Peters] to elaborate.”

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters gave a firm election promise to relocate Ports of Auckland if New Zealand First gained the treasury benches.

“The days of the Ports of Auckland as a container port, and as a car yard are numbered and Northland wants the jobs and opportunity,” he said then.

Kaipara Mayor Jason Smith says he welcomes the discussion of reopened rail lines in Kaipara.

“Upgrading rail through Kaipara District, including the mothballed link to Dargaville, would be significantly transformative to what’s already the fastest-growing North Island district. Improved rail connections from Paparoa, Maungaturoto or Kaiwaka on the main trunk line to Auckland would encourage new business and residential opportunities through the heart of the district. For Kaipara, the light at the end of the tunnel is even brighter than it already was.”

If Northport is given the go-ahead, it would move 400,000 containers, 100,000 from within Northland and 300,000 from Auckland. There would be major savings on rail, cutting 75,000 truck journeys and congestion estimated to cost up to and more than $1 billion annually.

The MOT business case also suggests road accidents in Northland cost $20 million a year and a $3.8 million annual road maintenance bill.

Significant too, given the government’s commitment to climate change, is the statistic showing rail would replace road traffic to the tune of
10 thousand tonnes annually in carbon emissions.