KiwiRail is set to suspend the freight of produce on the Northland trunk line indefinitely. The last train carrying produce from Ōtiria to Whangarei ran today as locals mourn the loss of a vital piece of the region's economic infrastructure.
While staff have advised that this is the last train from the North, only this afternoon we received clarification from KiwiRail that the line is not closed but will remain open to receive long-awaited maintenance.
NZ First leader Winston Peters says, “What are they doing with it shutting it down under our nose. Well, we're gonna turn that around and ensure that business can by train get their produce over Northport with a train service to it.”
Ngāti Hine Forestry Trust spokesman Pita Tipene says, “The railway sleepers and bridges have been rotting for years. That's why the train travels very slowly. Businesses aren't keen to send their products via train to the port because it's too slow.”
Tribal leaders say that if this is the final closure of the railway, then return the land to the owners.
Edward (Pitapita) Kelly from Te Kau i Mua says, “If that's the case, then return the railway to Ngāpuhi. The final report of Maranga Mai has been released. We need to rise up and take over control and management of our railway so we don't get even heavier traffic damaging our roads, which is already happening all the time.”
Tipene says, “I suspect KiwiRail are lying if they say the railway service is to be suspended for a while. All the trains have stopped and I suspect that KiwiRail is misleading the people of Northland.”
In its heyday, Northland rail was the busiest railway in the country carting most of Northland's stock and produce to market. Today, we've been told the service has been suspended until such time that it's viable to run again. Despite this, local leaders say that it's of such importance, they will put up a very strong fight.
Tipene says, “It's very clear now that money is a higher priority for this government than the people of Northland.”
Peters says, “You don't have to accept this sort of neglect and you've got to make a stand you've gotta make your voice seriously heard. When you do you'll see a reaction out of Wellington.”
KiwiRail says the track will be used again when and if appropriate opportunities present themselves