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KiwiRail’s new 2.5 km long road-rail hub will be located northeast of Palmerston North city, between the airport and Bunnythorpe

Site of new freight hub revealed

A regional freight hub for the lower North Island will be built just northeast of Palmerston North, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones has announced.

The Government is investing $40 million through the Provincial Growth Fund to designate and buy land and design the planned intermodal freight hub to deal with growing freight volumes in the lower North Island.

“KiwiRail has looked at a range of potential sites around Palmerston North, considering a range of factors. Building the 2.5 km long road-rail hub between the airport and Bunnythorpe makes sense,” Mr Jones says. “New Zealand’s freight volumes are forecast to increase by more than 50% in the decades ahead and Manawatu’s role in this is nationally important.

“Palmerston North is already a key logistics and distribution centre for the lower North Island, and the regional freight hub will help take that to a new level, attracting more distribution businesses and helping create jobs while reducing congestion from heavy trucks in and around the city,” he says.

“Building the hub next to the major distribution companies in the North-East Industrial Zone will ensure rail is close to potential customers and Palmerston North Airport, while supporting the local and regional councils’ vision for Palmerston North.”

Inland port facilities

The regional freight hub will also link to planned council and Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency road improvement projects, which will manage road freight traffic around Palmerston North and Bunnythorpe.

“The regional freight hub will bring a log yard, a container terminal, warehousing for freight businesses, and KiwiRail’s operations and maintenance facilities together in one place,” Mr Jones says. “It will make the transfer of domestic and export goods between road and rail safe and easy, and create an ‘inland port’ that will attract more logistics businesses to the area.

“This is the kind of big-picture view we need to take across our transport system. It’s not about road versus rail. Innovations like this hub are about making the best of all transport modes, which sets our regions up for economic growth while minimising the impact on our people.”

KiwiRail group chief executive Greg Miller says the announcement of the preferred site is a significant milestone for what is a nationally important logistics project. “The regional freight hub will have huge long-term benefits for Palmerston North and the wider Manawatu – with the ability to attract two to four billion dollars of logistics investment into the area – while servicing the entire central and lower North Island,” Mr Miller says. 

“It will be New Zealand’s first truly world-class supply chain logistics precinct, including capacity for a log yard, bulk goods silo, container terminal (including free trade zone capability for exports), significant warehousing for freight partners, and our own operations. Integrating all of these services, on this scale, creates efficiencies and cost savings that will set the standard for New Zealand logistics, and support the growth of Palmerston North as a distribution centre, well into the future.”

Finalising the design

Mr Miller says KiwiRail is a proud part of the Palmerston North community and he wants to ensure locals are involved as the design of the hub is finalised. “The hub is designed to enable our trains and heavy trucks to work efficiently together, while helping to get trucks out of already congested parts of Palmerston North city,” he says.

“I fully appreciate a project of this size represents a big change for the local community. That is why we want to work with the public as we finalise the design of the hub to ensure we have the right mitigations in place and any environmental impacts are minimised.

“KiwiRail has contacted affected landowners and will begin wider public consultation that will allow feedback on aspects of the hub footprint, and the mitigations we will be developing. My team will also be holding public meetings in and around Palmerston North in the weeks ahead.”

The regional freight hub is designed to meet the freight needs of the Manawatu and the surrounding regions for the next 100 years. KiwiRail will finalise the design of the hub and expects to begin the process to have the land designated for rail use, which is similar to a resource consent process, from about September 2020.

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