Port Taranaki has the facilities and infrastructure on-hand to make logs-on-rail practical and economically viable, chief executive Guy Roper says.
As part of the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund, New Plymouth has been earmarked for a $250,000 feasibility study into rail opportunities for the region’s export forestry business.
Mr Roper said Port Taranaki had been in discussions with KiwiRail for the past 12 months about initiatives to develop a rail option for log exports, and said the Government’s announcement was great acknowledgement of that hard work.
“We think a rail mode of transport for the logging sector tackles a need in Taranaki,” Mr Roper said. “We have been well across this and believe it is important to help drive regional economic growth, supporting the wider region that Port Taranaki services.”
Port Taranaki’s log volumes have been increasing at record levels in recent years. In the 2016-17 financial year, log exports grew by 36%, while for the half-year to 31 December 2017, exports increased by 63%. The trend is expected to continue as demand from overseas increases.
Mr Roper said Port Taranaki had the on-site rail facilities and storage area, and could enhance berth access to maximise operations for rail.
“It can be handled now. We have the rail line, storage, land available and exporter interest to quickly and effectively service not just the Taranaki region but the forestry industry in the southern region of the North Island.”
He said bringing more logs to the port through rail would result in increased ship visits and also ease the pressure on the region’s roads.
“This would have the potential to manage the increasing volumes of logs being transported. Logs would no longer be exclusively on trucks, which would help congestion and help reduce the amount of maintenance and upgrades required,” he said.
Mr Roper said Port Taranaki is taking an active part in the feasibility study.
“We are committing senior members of our team who have an existing relationship with KiwiRail to work in conjunction with them, and we will draw on other Taranaki-based resources as required to make the most of this opportunity.
“Port Taranaki’s aim is to make a real difference to the Taranaki economy and we are continually investigating ways to do so,” Mr Roper said.