One of the biggest stumbling blocks for extending Te Huia to the Bay of Plenty had been the region’s reluctance to engage with remits beyond its own boundaries. We all know about the introduction of Commissioners to Tauranga City Council, but the Tauranga by-election and the regional BoP election also delayed us when it came to engaging with officials in the region.
Anyway, as soon as things had settled, Katrina worked her magic and arranged meetings with a variety of Councillors and local officials. She managed to secure a slot for us to present at the Regional Transport Committee meeting but had send apologies at the last minute due to a family emergency. The whole team invested time in making the presentation clean and concise.
James Llewelyn and I stepped up to the plate and had a very engaging session with the Committee discussing the Making Rail Work Development Co-operative approach on delivering passenger rail to the Bay of Plenty.
We began with who we are and our belief that Public Transport is fundamental to our nation’s people and economy. Some common myths used against rail were explored and shown to be demonstrably untrue including:
- “There is not enough capacity on the East Coast Main Trunk Line and the Kaimai tunnel is a constraint.”
- “Inter-regional passenger rail will compromise ability to move freight.”
We were clear that our collaboration with central government and regional partners is going well showing a strategy as to how regional passenger rail could work.
Presenting an overview of a co-operative approach we showed how it could develop the region and society as a whole along the corridor. We explained how the organisation could have a limited lifespan and how it could have seconded employees from relevant stakeholder organisations.
Critically we asked for In-principle support for developing a co-operative approach and to work with Council to progress the Regional Spatial Strategy. It was made clear that work is required with the regions Public Transport Committee to progress tangible policy and actions in partnership with neighbouring Waikato Regional Council.
KiwiRail commented that it supported our view on the capacity of the network and endorsed the Making Rail Work teams strong advocacy role and acknowledged our support adding that there is work ahead to deliver passenger rail in the region and that BoPRC should collaborate with the Waikato Regional Council to deliver a future with passenger rail.
Some feedback from our session included comments such as “a very slick presentation”, ”very intriguing proposal”, “Thank you for bringing it forward”, “we strongly endorse what you are doing” and that it would be passed on to the local officials in the Regional Council for action.
Much to my delight, we also had some very engaging questions about the history of rail and the debt incurred originally by the nation going back to the 1870’s delivering it and how the lack of business and other stakeholder buy in, left the taxpayer to pick up the bill over the next 70 years. We hit it home that our business development co-operative approach was designed to ensure sustainability so that does not happen again.