The first distribution from ECT’s new Contestable Investment Pool has just been made, with Gisborne City Vintage Rail receiving $142,000 to repair the Gisborne to Muriwai line.
While it did not sustain damage in the 2012 storm, which forced the closure of the track further south, the Muriwai track has deteriorated. A $230,000 work plan has been established which includes bridge repairs, the replacement of track sleepers, new crossing alarm controls and vegetation work. These works will ensure the viability of the line and WA165, long in to the future.
ECT’s Contestable Investment Pool is earmarked for projects that contribute to regional economic growth. Eastland Community Trust general manager Leighton Evans says the economic benefits to the region are significant and well quantified by Gisborne City Vintage Rail.
“With KiwiRail now ensuring access to the line, the time was right for ECT to support the group.
“It has become abundantly clear WA165 supplies a point of difference for our fledgling cruise industry, with Cruise New Zealand citing the steam train as the primary reason for including Gisborne in its itinerary.
Forecasts indicate the cruise ships will have a $5 million economic benefit to the region for the 2015 – 16 season alone. And, with a total of 40 cruise ship visits booked well into 2019, it’s vital we ensure the viability of the line and, by extension, those opportunities for our wider business community,” he said.
Gisborne City Vintage Rail president Geoff Joyce says ECT’s donation will cover more than half the costs of the project.
“We’ve got a little more work to do, but it’s great to think we’re on track to service our cruise ship business, the revenue from which will also help maintain the lines in to the future – helping us to continue to run a sustainable service for locals and visitors alike,” he says.
While the economic benefits speak for themselves, Mr Evans says the applicant’s track record was an important aspect of the decision-making process.
“Gisborne City Vintage Rail prepared a robust business case and demonstrated capacity. They’ve been operating since 1985 initially restoring the train, and have been operating the Beach Loop line for 15 years. They’ve successfully navigated some real challenges in that 30 years and that experience, tenacity and resilience gave the Trust confidence to move forward with the proposal,” he said.