Speech on NZ Rail Plan

State Owned Enterprises

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E ngā mana, e ngā reo, e ngā karanga maha o te wa, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.

Ki ngā mana whenua o Taranaki Whānui anō nei aku mihi ki a koutou.

Nōku te hōnore kia haere mai ki te whakanuia tēnei huihuinga whakahirahira.

Nō reira, ngā manaakitanga ki runga i ā tātou, katoa.

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, huri noa i te whare, tēnā rā tātou katoa.

Before getting started, I just want to echo the sentiment of others and pay tribute to the late Brian Corban.

Never one to shy away from the hard jobs, he devoted his life to serving the community and NZ.

I know, Brian was seen as being quite transformative in KiwiRail circles and he was well respected for his wisdom, honesty and sense of humour.

He’s overseen the SOE during a time of high Government investment to rebuild rail in this country, which will be included in his very long list of other achievements.

Coming back to today, I want to next acknowledge my Cabinet colleague Michael Wood, KiwiRail board member Hazel Armstrong, KiwiRail Group CEO Greg Miller, other distinguished guests and members of the KiwiRail team.

This Government has put its money where its mouth is and made a firm commitment to rail.

The reality is that rail has seen decades of underinvestment.

The old New Zealand Railways was sold off in 1993 and later bought back by the 5th Labour Government and re-created as KiwiRail.

That was an important first step, but it is up to this Government to firmly re-establish rail in New Zealand and ensure that it has a sustainable future.

Over the last term we have invested more than $6 billion in rail.

We made a $1billion investment through Budget 2019 and invested a further $1.2 billion in Budget 2020.

That money was used to replace KiwiRail’s aging locomotives and wagons; upgrade its major maintenance facilities across the country; and contribute to replacing the inter-island ferries.

I think it’s fitting we are holding this event in Wellington. Around $327 million worth of upgrades are already underway across the Wellington metro network and on the Wairarapa Line, which was nearing the point of closure.

We are investing more than a billion dollars in other rail projects through our infrastructure focused NZ Upgrade Programme, including:

  • extending Auckland’s electrified commuter network to Pukekohe and building new stations around Drury to support housing growth;
  • building a new Third Main line in Auckland to support growth of commuter services and freight from the ports of Auckland and Tauranga;
  • And, further network upgrades and safety improvements supporting Wellington commuter rail and the Capital Connection

And we’ve invested hundreds of millions of dollars more in regional rail projects – such as:

  • Reopening the mothballed Napier – Wairoa line, to get logging trucks off the unsuitable rural roads;
  • Replacing the 90-year old maintenance building at Dunedin’s Hillside workshops with something modern and fit for-purpose.
  • We provided funding to design and secure the land to develop a world-class road-rail hub near Palmerston North, to help get freight off roads across the lower North Island.
  • Started the new Te Huia passenger service between Hamilton and Auckland;
  • And, we’re upgrading the rail line between Auckland and Whangarei, improving 13 rail tunnels so that they can fit modern shipping containers for the first time.

To me the last project really highlights the practical value of rail.

The upgraded Northland Line has enabled KiwiRail to help relieve the recent international freight congestion that has significantly affected the ports of Auckland and Tauranga.

With ships discharging at Northport, KiwiRail has been able to move shipping containers south from Whangarei on the Northland Line.

More than 3.8 million tonnes of cargo has left via the Northland Line – which equates to around 190 less trucks going up and down the highway.

As well as future-proofing New Zealand, we’re creating job opportunities up and down the country and boosting our economy - both regionally and nationally.

Rail is critical to New Zealand’s economy, enabling regional development and more job opportunities.

It is key to keeping our towns, cities and regions moving and supporting our post-COVID recovery.

The projects I have mentioned are creating significant employment opportunities.

For example:

  • In Northland more than 560 people were working on the line at peak;
  • The three Auckland NZUP projects alone will support up to 600 civil construction jobs;
  • About the same number of people will be needed to build new Interislander ferry terminals in Wellington and Picton;
  • And, KiwiRail and its contractors have taken on 90 trainees, many of whom had lost work as a result of Covid, to improve drainage on rail lines across the country.

And these projects are using local suppliers where they can – creating work for quarries, concrete suppliers and manufacturers, and steel fabricators, just to name a few.

These investments are seeing tens of millions of dollars going back into the economy - into people’s pockets when they need it most.

As KiwiRail’s shareholding Minister, I appreciate how much is riding on the State-Owned Enterprise.

I want to thank Greg and his team for the vast amount of work they are doing.

I look forward to seeing the rail projects completed - on time and to budget! 

As Minister Wood has said, the NZ Rail Plan – and the Government’s commitment to rail - is designed to set the right conditions to balance our transport system and create options for New Zealanders.

For KiwiRail – and its freight customers - it generates certainty.

The Rail Plan, and Rail Network Investment Programme (RNIP) that underpins it, are part of a new approach which will ensure rail infrastructure is funded sustainably.

It also allows long term planning - something that has been sorely lacking in the past.

Infrastructure is expensive but it lasts for decades, so shouldn’t be reliant on year-to-year Budgets.

Having a 10-year plan means KiwiRail is better able to make considered investment decisions that are cost effective over time.

It’s about doing it right from the start. 

This Government is rebuilding rail for New Zealand.

We’re making sure that KiwiRail has the trains it needs to carry more freight around the country, and that the tracks in our cities and regions are up to standard to support freight and commuter growth.

I have no doubt our investment will pay dividends for the country.

Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.