Iwirail policy will boost rural economy - Māori Party

By Heeni Brown

The Māori Party has launched its Iwirail policy which aims to reinvigorate and stimulate regional economies to create jobs. 

Māori Party president Tukoroirangi Morgan says, "Our plan will drive jobs in areas that desperately need them."

The Party believes their policy has the potential to inject $1bil into the regions and create 7,500 jobs.   

"One job in rail transport leads to job creation in forestry, agriculture, manufacturing, tourism and other key sectors."

The policy will first be rolled out in the East Coast where the Napier to Gisborne line was mothballed in 2012 when severe weather caused washouts along the section north of Wairoa.

The party's candidate for Te Tairāwhiti Marama Fox says, "We will be looking at the lines that have been mothballed. We know that for example those lines that have been taken under the public works act were taken from Māori."

But the Party says it's going to cost $350mil to get it off the ground, with an additional $100mil annual appropriation fund to keep it going.

"The Tairāwhiti region is economically deprived, there are so many parts of the region that are impoverished. But people there have told us that they want to create their own jobs there but aren't able to send their resources to where it needs to go." 

Meanwhile, the Taxpayers' Union have criticised the policy. The union says it will take money away from desperately needed infrastructure, like the road links to the East Coast.

But Nikki Searancke of the Gisborne Rail Co-operative Steering Group disagrees.

Searancke says, "We think that the Government have been since 2012 have not attempted to restore the rail.  Businesses in Gisborne want the railway back. In fact numerous trucking companies want the rail back. So I think in terms of what Māori Party have launched today, Iwi will be able to participate in also running trains on the track."