Northland Regional Council says the joint venture will share the costs of acquiring land for the rail link while rail infrastructure agency ONTRACK says it expects to file notice of designation before Christmas.
“There are some formalities to be completed but both parties agree that a joint venture is the best vehicle for progressing the project, which will be the first significant expansion of the rail network in the region in more than 50 years,” said ONTRACK Chairman Cam Moore.
ONTRACK Chairman Cam Moore & Northland Regional Council Chairman Mark Farnsworth at the Marsden Pt deepwater port the proposed link would service.
“The progress made by Northland Regional Council on negotiating the purchase of the land that will be needed should allow us to file notice of designation before Christmas.”
Designation is a process that legally identifies land as being required for a project and safeguards the future availability of that land.
Northland Regional Council Chairman Mark Farnsworth said a four-person negotiating team had been working with about 20 Bream Bay property owners to secure the necessary land.
“We’re pleased with the way negotiations have gone,” he said. “The negotiators set out to protect the proposed route and provide certainty for the land owners involved.
“They sought to reach a fair and mutually satisfactory outcome based on buying only the relatively small amount of land needed and the land owners continuing to use the land until it is needed for the rail link.
“We’re now sufficiently well advanced to be able take the next step.”
The rail link route leaves the North Auckland Line at Oakleigh, approximately 15 kilometres south of Whangarei. It travels eastwards for approximately 16 kilometres to link with the new deep water port at Marsden Point.
Mr Moore said while designation is only the first step towards building of the rail link, it is a recognition that a strong case exists for its establishment.
“We’ve taken a long hard look at the case for the rail link and come to the conclusion that it stacks up. That’s why we’re backing it and associated projects like improving tunnel access for large containers.
“The joint venture will share the costs of land acquisition and purchase.”
However, building the line itself will cost in excess of $100 million and will need to be funded separately when – and if – the project proceeds, as would any improvements to the line south of Whangarei to enable hi-cube containers to negotiate tunnels, Mr Moore said.
Mr Farnsworth said developments in the shipping industry and Marsden Point’s advantages as a deep water port capable of accepting the largest ships provide a compelling argument for proceeding with the rail link.
“While we have growing volumes of goods that go through the port, the possibility of attracting container traffic from the south is very appealing.”
An $800,000 feasibility study completed in 2003 for the Northland Regional and Whangarei District Council found developing the link would provide a number of benefits including helping ease forestry-related traffic volumes and congestion problems on the region’s roads.
Before - section of One Tree Point Rd before the rail link is built.
After - the same section after the proposed link is built.