Dunedin cable car project deserves grant from Provincial Growth Fund

Dunedin Heritage Light Rail Trust trustee Neville Jemmett with the restored cable car Roslyn No...
Dunedin Heritage Light Rail Trust trustee Neville Jemmett with the restored cable car Roslyn No 95 at the trust’s Mornington shed. Photo: Peter McIntosh
The Dunedin Heritage Light Rail Trust is hoping to tap into the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund to bring cable cars back to the city.  Neville Jemmett makes his case for a slice of the pie.

Here in Dunedin we are blessed with loyal, supportive and proud citizens with warm Southern blood in their veins.

They know what they want within our city, and they do not hold back when they see something that will not just give them a reason to be proud of their city by either enhancing  our city’s  tourism potential through the promotion of our past heritage or planning a pathway to the city’s  future through visions of grandeur . In recent months many such enterprises have been launched. They include the Steamer Basin Project, the upgrading and promotion of our city’s  heritage buildings and our project, the re-development of the Exchange-to-Mornington cable car line.

More than 60 years ago, the last cable car route was closed and since that day in March 1957, many individuals and groups have attempted to reinstate the route, only to fall short.  The closure has always created a sad memory of its demise and  wonderment  the council of the time did not recognise the potential a ride on the only cable car running up a street outside of San Francisco would have on the tourist trade. The Dunedin Heritage Light Rail Trust has spent nine of the last 11 years researching, promoting, developing and gaining public support for the return of the cable car on Dunedin’s hilly suburb, to the point where  a building has been built in Mornington, housing three original, fully restored heritage cable cars.

Like the Steamer Basin Project, the trust is also preparing an application to the Provincial Growth Fund for capital funding. We already have tremendous public support behind the cable car project. Couple that with donations of material and building expertise

from the local business sector and financial support from the general public and we are well on our way towards the return of "the little matchbox that climbs up to the sky".

Like all regional projects, the trust is relying  on government funding.

Dunedin is not a large city and accordingly, the council does not have a bottomless bucket of money and must be cautious with its investments. It would be much easier if a project promoter could receive funding through local avenues but sadly there is not enough to go around. Many well deserving projects fall over in the early stages due to the lack of the  necessary capital.

With the Government allocating  $3 billion to the three-year Regional Growth Fund, projects like the cable car and Steamer Basin development get  the much welcomed opportunity to seek the necessary funding for their projects and in turn the opportunity to provide regional tourist attractions and increased local employment. What is required now is for the funders to  understand why these projects need financial support and that is where, as Ian Taylor said,  "first we have to show that we are in this together, not just as a city but as a region".  Also, the projects have to promote the city’s  uniqueness in its heritage and forward thinking, and this is where the re-introduction of the cable car is on its own.

Once operational, the Exchange to Mornington cable car route with its original, fully restored cable cars that operated from 1883 until 1957 will again become the only system of its kind in the southern hemisphere and only the second working line in the world. Looking into the future, it is almost certain San Francisco and Dunedin will be the only working cable car routes in operation thus ensuring the Dunedin cable car will obtain continued patronage from the ever increasing tourism sector and local commuters for many years into the future. We have researched and fully prepared our projects  and are confident they will become internationally recognised as providing visitors to our city with a must-see attraction. The Dunedin Heritage Light Rail Trust has had the foresight to realise  "progress" can mean keeping and improving something that might seem "old-fashioned" and not just scrapping it for something that might seem "modern" and new.

Should the two projects fail to gain financial support through the Provincial Growth Fund, these opportunities might  never be available again, so funding success must be realised from these applications.

As has been stated by Ian Taylor, the public can become the driving force behind these projects if only they choose to come along with us. The support the public can provide, through not only getting behind the projects but also promoting them internationally, advertises Dunedin as the must-see place to visit, thus increasing the city’s visitor numbers immensely. This in turn generates increased revenue for the city, a winning formula all round.

- Neville Jemmett is a trustee of Dunedin Heritage Light Rail Trust. 

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