The Bay Of Islands Vintage Railway is absolutely delighted that, after a long and costly process, the resource consent for a new railway station and cycleway complex to be constructed in the area known locally as the Colenso Triangle has been granted.
The process commenced in October 2016 and submissions closed on 17th November, 2016. There were 121 submissions received by Northland Regional Council and 113 by Far North District Council, which were overwhelmingly in support of the railway proposal. However, there were a few submissions which expressed concerns over effects of the development on a small area of swamp and any bird life that utilised that area, the natural character, and cultural and historic effects.
Accordingly, a Hearing was conducted over the 2 days of 3 & 4th April, 2017, by Dr Rob Lieffering from Nelson, who was very fair and impartial and conducted the Hearing in a highly professional manner. All submitters who wished to be heard were granted an objective and dispassionate opportunity to do so. One complication was that there was shared access off SH 11 with the local oyster farmers who were seeking a reclamation adjoining the Railway site to land their products, and the two applications had therefore been submitted together. There were many more objections to the oyster farmers’ application than there was to the Railway application, and this was a factor, in combination with the natural character and wetland issues, that resulted in the Railway’s application being declined.
This led to an appeal which was heard on 17 July, for which the two applications were “unbundled” and the Railway shifted the station siting with its associated infrastructure and parking. The Railway also undertook to carry out an intensive predator control programme.
Dr Lieffering’s Decision Report was received on 25 August and the Railway application was approved in full. His Report states that he is satisfied that the Railway has undertaken an adequate assessment of any potential adverse effects and, in fact, that “allowing the railway terminus to be constructed and operated promotes the sustainable management of natural and physical resources.”
There are conditions relating to storm water, sediment control, weed control, archaeology, etc with which the Railway is very happy to comply. “But the huge plus for the whole region”, stated Vintage Railway spokesman and Project Chairman Frank Leadley “is that we can now proceed with confidence with gaining funding for the restoration of the North Island’s historic first railway line and in developing a tourist complex which will be huge for the region in terms of employment and in its intrinsic interest. The total project involves building and rolling stock developments at Kawakawa and the construction of a permanent cycleway by FNDC within the railway corridor, as well as the large multi-purpose station building at Opua. We have a massive job ahead of us as we are looking at raising around $5.2million for the project, but we have great community support and are confident we will reach our targets,” he declared. The Business Case was peer reviewed by Craig Wilson Quality Tourism in Nelson who declared it to be “one of the most exciting projects I have encountered” and which will be “the equal or better of any similar projects in the country.”
The Resource Consent process will have cost the Railway Trust over $50,000. “This is really tough for a Charitable Trust,” Frank Leadley stated, “but it serves to steel our resolve to get the job started as soon as possible so that the whole community can benefit from, and be proud, of what has been achieved,” he concluded.