New freight hub a ‘game changer’

Celebrating the opening of the Fairfield Freight Hub are (from left) KiwiRail chief executive...
Celebrating the opening of the Fairfield Freight Hub are (from left) KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy, Rangitata MP James Meager, Wareing Group director Mark Wareing, Ashburton Mayor Neil Brown and Transport Minister Simeon Brown. PHOTO JONATHAN LEASK/LDR
The new Fairfield Freight Hub has been described as a "game changer" for Mid Canterbury, which will help shift trucks off the busy highway and keep Ashburton moving.

Minister of Transport Simeon Brown attended the official opening of the hub on Friday, although it has been operational since April 8.

Wareing Group director Mark Wareing said the hub would streamline freight volumes in and out of Mid Canterbury and reduce the impact of trucks on roads.

"It’s setting the region up for a lower-carbon future and the location near the Northpark Industrial Park is ideally located to take advantage of this new hub.

"Helping exporters and freight partners move more freight by rail makes sense both from a business and sustainability perspective and will help stabilise the supply chain issues our clients and their customers are facing."

Mr Wareing worked with Talley’s to secure the existing rail siding site at the former freezing works site for the hub, but he has always credited former Rangitata MP Jo Luxton for her assistance in getting the project across the line.

The hub development cost $18million, a $2.5m contribution coming from the government’s NZ Upgrade Programme and $2.3m from the Ashburton District Council.

It is a project Ashburton Mayor Neil Brown has been looking forward to.

"I’ve been waiting for this day for over six years, right from when I got the first phone call from Mark asking for assistance in getting the rail yard moved from the centre of Ashburton.

"Mark had the vision to get trucks off our congested state highway and put the containers that transport the goods on to rail."

The hub would have several benefits for Mid Canterbury.

"Significantly reducing shunting in the centre of town means locals aren’t stuck at level crossings any more while wagons are connected or disconnected

... It’s been a great collaboration and will be an asset for our district."

KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy said working with the Wareing Group to move operations to Fairfield would increase the amount of local freight carried by rail from 6000 to 20,000 containers a year.

"That’s half a million tonnes of freight off the region’s roads

... And given rail offers 70% fewer emissions compared to heavy road freight, it’s a substantial reduction in transport emissions.

 - By Jonathan Leask

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.