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Road, rail, and health boost

Labour list MP Kieran McAnulty and South Wairarapa Mayor Alex Beijen at Featherston station. PHOTO/MARCUS ANSELM

Rail and road commuters to benefit from boost

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Wairarapa towns are set to benefit from major government spending but the opposition says the investment is too little, too late.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a $12 billion New Zealand Upgrade Programme on Wednesday, including packages for road, rail and health services.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to invest in New Zealand – modernising our infrastructure, preparing for climate change and helping grow the economy,” she said.

Four rail projects across the country are included, with $211 million allocated for improvements in the Wellington network. This includes work on the Wairarapa line.

Key programmes include spending on Featherston railway station, upgrades to further along the line at Carterton, with a passing facility near the Waingawa rail port to streamline commuter and freight services.

Labour list MP Kieran McAnulty said “commuters in the region have been screaming out for investment in the rail line”.

But Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott said these ideas were not new, not original, too late, and that he did not trust the government to see them through.

McAnulty said the upgrades were “most definitely needed”.

“The Wairarapa train line has exceeded expectations in terms of patronage for a long time,” he said.

“Parts of the Wairarapa line haven’t received an upgrade or maintenance in 50 years, so it’s definitely overdue.

“In order for the regional council to increase services, which is very much needed, they’ve always said the track needs to be up-to-grade.”

McAnulty said that the investment in rail services and wider road works into the region was warranted.

“Those that don’t wish to use the rail, or the service as it currently stands doesn’t suit their purposes, they’ll be also pleased that there are other announcements made in our surrounding areas that will benefit Wairarapa, such as the Melling interchange, which will mean a smoother ride to the Hutt and beyond to Wellington.

“There’s something in this for rail commuters and road commuters.”

National’s Scott said Wairarapa rail problems were largely due the service needing to wait at various points to cross with trains on the south side of the hill.

It had been a known problem for many years and double tracking to resolve it was initiated and announced under the last National government.

He said the previous administration’s plans to increase the road network had been cut back under pressure from the Green Party, coalition partners in the current cabinet.

“They stopped everything, they said they didn’t like roads, the Greens were very influential on that policy.

“Unfortunately, these guys have done too little, too late. We want more roads, not the same number of roads that the government is proposing. We’d like to build more roads. We would actually deliver it.”

Scott said the previous government had shown their commitment to infrastructure in major projects.

He said the timing of the announcement was “quite ironic”.

“[It’s] the beginning of election year, they say they’re going to start kicking off all these big projects, so in the middle of the year, you’ll see some of this activity, you’ll see jobs created, you’ll see expenditure, you’ll see people on the road building these things.

“However, they should have been done two years ago. To be a bit cynical, you know, they’ve postponed all this expenditure to election year to make themselves look good come August, September.

“But if its anything like Kiwibuild, or anything like their light rail infrastructure, they’re just not capable of delivering it, so I’m sceptical that they’ll deliver what they promised.”

The Wairarapa health sector has also been promised a boost with new and upgraded mobile dental clinics, one of several across New Zealand.

McAnulty said this was particularly important for rural communities.


  1. Having decided not to stand again, the usually-silent MP for the Wairarapa sounds like he’s electioneering. It’s a pity we’ve not heard much from him before about the trains.

    It’s an even bigger pity that the Wairarapa is to have shiny new tracks, but still there’s no decision about shiny new trains. And no indication when that decision might be made.

    The real problem is not the state of the track, but the number of seats available on commuter trains, and the frequency of the service.

    When will the government respond to the business case put forward by the Greater Wellington Regional Council?

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