A plan to further grow Port Taranaki’s export forestry business by bringing logs to the port on rail is close to being secured and was outlined to Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters when he visited the region today (12 July).
Mr Peters and Regional Economic Development Parliamentary Under-Secretary Fletcher Tabuteau were given a tour of Port Taranaki this afternoon during a day-long visit to Taranaki.
As part of the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund initiative, Port Taranaki has been working closely with KiwiRail, the Taranaki Regional Council, forestry owners and stakeholders on a $250,000 feasibility study into rail opportunities for the region’s export log business.
Through the combined discussions and investigation, a daily service from Whanganui to Port Taranaki is now close to being secured.
“This is an exciting development and one senior members of our team and KiwiRail have been working hard to realise,” Port Taranaki chief executive Guy Roper said.
“We think a rail mode of transport for the logging sector tackles a real need in our catchment area and further afield, and believe this is important to help drive regional economic growth and support the wider region that Port Taranaki services.”
Port Taranaki’s log volumes have increased at record levels in recent years. In the 2016-17 financial year, log exports grew by 36%, while for the latest year to 30 June 2018 volumes grew by a further 42% – an increase of more than 200,000 JAS. The trend is expected to continue as demand from overseas remains strong.
KiwiRail Group general manager - sales & commercial Alan Piper said the company was committed to investigating ways to support that growth and saw the logs-on-rail concept as a positive development.
“We have been working closely with Port Taranaki and the stakeholders and are close to securing a daily log service from Whanganui to the port,” Mr Piper said.
“Together, KiwiRail and Port Taranaki have explored areas of opportunity, such as strategic land use developments and leveraging off KiwiRail’s Taranaki and extended network to provide greater connectivity for the region.
“Investment will be required for the service with additional wagons needed and the development of supporting infrastructure, including log yards,” Mr Piper said.
Mr Roper said a logs-on-rail service would have a number of benefits.
“Bringing more logs to the port through rail will result in increased ship visits and also ease the pressure on the region’s roads,” Mr Roper said. “Logs will no longer be exclusively on trucks, which will help congestion, help reduce the amount of maintenance and upgrades required, and reduce carbon emissions.”
He said Port Taranaki had the necessary on-site rail facilities and storage area, and could enhance berth access to maximise operations for rail.