Investment in blue highway a lifeline for regional economies and cyclone recovery

Regional Development

The Government is delivering a coastal shipping lifeline for businesses, residents and the primary sector in the cyclone-stricken regions of Hawkes Bay and Tairāwhiti, Regional Development Minister Kiri Allan announced today.

The Rangitata vessel has been chartered for an emergency coastal shipping route between Gisborne and Napier, with potential for the route to be extended to Tauranga and the South Island, using funding approved by Regional Economic Development Ministers.

“Our regions are the backbone of Aotearoa and this Government investment will ensure our hardest hit regions can get back on their feet quicker,” Kiri Allan said.

“Cyclone Gabrielle has significantly damaged key roads and rail routes. Currently the transportation of products between Gisborne to Napier is more than nine hours by truck.

“Agriculture and horticulture is vital to the East Coast economy and this investment will respond to the critical need to get products – vegetables, meat, wool, timber and wine - out of Gisborne and to the market.

“In 2022, Coastal Bulk, the owner of Rangitata, was one recipient of the Government $30m Coastal Shipping fund, which co-invested with four costal shipping companies to improve domestic shipping services and efficiency, transport resilience, reduce emissions, and upgrade maritime infrastructure.

“Without Government support, this coastal shipping capability between regional ports would not have been available to New Zealand.

“This investment in the blue highway will also speed up recovery efforts, allowing for the swifter delivery of construction and rebuild materials into the East Coast. 

“The Government is providing a $500,000 grant and $2.25 million underwrite to Eastland Port for the charter of the Rangitata for the coming three months.

“Swift, purposeful support following a natural disaster such as Cyclone Gabrielle is crucial to keep our regions going.  By shaping up this coastal route now, we should see Gisborne’s produce shipping out bi-weekly before the month is out.

“There is strong support for this coastal shipping route from local produce growers, manufacturers, wine industry, meat processors, and timber exporters, based in both Gisborne and Wairoa,” Kiri Allan said.

Eastland Port Chief Operating Officer Regional Infrastructure Andrew Gaddum said the Rangitata will arrive in port around midday on Monday. 

“Without this grant we wouldn’t be able to make this happen, so we are over the moon and very grateful we can continue to service our community.

“We’ve heard from our customers that the current road freight alternative to Napier is costing them thousands of dollars, so it’s great we can keep the money in the pocket of our local people.

“Normally you would have months of preparation to get a project of this size in place but our team have adapted to the needs of the community and made it work. I am really proud of what we have achieved in such a short space of time.

“This is a huge win for our region,” said Mr Gaddum.

Notes to editors: 

  • The $2.25 million will cover the cost of three months of usage, at $750,000 per month. The $750,000 covers the vessel charter, crew, insurance, and fuel costs
  • The $500,000 in capital expenditure is made up of:
    • $250,000 required to accelerate the Wharf rebuild at Gisborne Port, which is currently underway. This would allow the Rangitata to berth at the same time as export log ships are also being loaded.
    • $250,000 required for infrastructure related to electrical connection points for reefer containers which is used for meat processors.
    • A three-month timeframe would allow the service to be established and firm demand for a longer-term service to be determined.