Rail to Northland investigated in new Provincial Growth Fund project

Shane Jones has announced the latest tranche of provincial growth fund projects. Photo: Shane Cowlishaw.

The possibility of rejuvenating the rail line north of Auckland will be investigated as part of the latest tranche of announcements from the Provincial Growth Fund.

Regional Development Minister Shane Jones and Transport Minister Phil Twyford announced the $500,000 feasibility study today.

“The existing sections of the line are in poor condition or not in use. The business case will weigh the costs and benefits of upgrading them to modern freight standards,” Twyford said.

Jones added that almost all of the region’s freight was shifted by road and that he hoped a future rail line would help shift some of this freight to rail.

“Around 1,185 heavy vehicles a day travel on State Highway 1 between Northland and Auckland, and truck numbers are increasing,” he said.

The Government’s Draft Government Policy Statement on Transport released in April is the first to be ‘mode neutral’, meaning that rail can now be compared alongside road for transport funding.

Other PGF projects announced today include a $6.2 million boost to the Twin Coast Discovery road, an 8000 kilometre circular journey along the east and west coasts of Northland.

The Hundertwasser Arts Centre with Wairau Māori Art Gallery in Whangarei will receive a $10 million investment from the PGF.

The centre will cost $26 million overall to build and construction is set to start next month.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who is also Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister, said the cost would be recouped.

“I’m pleased to be in Northland to announce this funding today. Annually, the centre will attract more than 200,000 visitors bringing about $26 million in net economic benefit,” she said.