Letters to Editor: Taieri Gorge Railway, councillors sticking to local issues

Photo: ODT files
Photo: ODT files
Today's Letters to the Editor from readers cover topics including debate on the Taieri Gorge Railway, support for McDonald's in Wanaka and councillors sticking to local issues. 

A low-cost, low-carbon day out for the family

In response to Mr Duncan Connors (ODT 24.11.23) regarding the Taieri Gorge Railway, Mr Connors points to the economic benefit of the Taieri Gorge Railway to the Dunedin economy.

This was thoroughly examined by economist Benje Patterson in a report commissioned by the DCC in 2021. The report states that in 2019, pre-Covid, Dunedin Railways contributed 2.4% to the total visitor economy of Dunedin in that year. A similar report into the economic benefit of a cycle trail extension, completed by the same economist, is now with the DCC.

Mr Connors considers the option of converting the Taieri Gorge Rail Corridor into a cycleway as ‘‘exclusive and elitist’’ whereas the train is ‘‘egalitarian and inclusive’’. If I take my family to Hindon on the train, the trip will cost me $249 and will incur a subsidy from the ratepayer of a further $340. So in total the train trip will cost $589 split between the ratepayer and myself. We would have a fabulous day out on the train.

The alternative option sees me taking the family to Hindon and riding our bikes back to North Taieri, an option that would also be a fabulous day out and cost me $15.

In 2023 just 1806 people from Dunedin chose or could afford to go on the Taieri Gorge Railway. Pre-Covid in 2019, just 3000 people from Dunedin chose or could afford to go on the Taieri Gorge Railway. This suggests to me that this trip is neither egalitarian or inclusive for the people of Dunedin.

A large part of the motivation for opening up the Taieri Gorge as a trail is to offer low-cost, low-carbon, recreational access for cyclists, walkers, trail runners, fishermen and families, rather than restricting access to cruise ship passengers and those that can afford $249 to ride the train.

The Mosgiel Taieri Community Board is asking that all options be considered, and decisions be made with our eyes wide open.

Andrew Simms
Chairman, Mosgiel Taieri Community Board

Or an unmitigated disaster

Back in 1990 I was asked to chair an appeal to save the Taieri Gorge Railway. I accepted the position and the appeal raised $1.2 million which according to the Google Calculator would amount to almost $2 million in 2023. I continued as chairman of the train company until 2013.

The TGR grew and developed into a successful business operation wholly owned by the Taieri Gorge Trust. Some years later the Dunedin City Council purchased a minority interest and later purchased the balance of the shares from the trust and became the sole proprietor of what became Dunedin Railways Ltd, a fully owned subsidiary of Dunedin City Holdings.

Dunedin to Middlemarch would rank as one of the greatest train journeys in the world and offers the opportunity to see scenery and structures which can only be described as spectacular and awe inspiring.

The pandemic inevitably resulted in the temporary closure of what is currently known as Dunedin Railways Ltd. Thanks to many years of toil and strife it has developed to a stage where it has become an integral and vital component of the Dunedin and Otago infrastructure and a vitally important attractions to cruise ship passengers as well as local citizens.

To remove this vital element of New Zealand’s rail history would, in my view, be an unmitigated disaster. It is clearly one of the attractions that will continue to bring hundreds of cruise ships to Dunedin in the future, as it has done in the past.

The railway line is an historic icon. The deconstruction of all or part of it is simply unthinkable and would result in the loss of an incomparable and irreplaceable Otago attraction.

We can only hope that the DCC can provide the foresight and the courage to save the track and the train as the citizens of the city did some 32 years ago when they responded so generously to the appeal to ‘‘Save The Train’’.

John Farry
St Clair


As it stands, it’s a load of old nonsense

Well done to Hilary Calvert (ODT 23.11.23) for showing up the PC nonsense at recent ORC and DCC meetings.

Of course they all drive to the meetings, use cellphones, fly in aeroplanes, buy imported goods, waste water on their lawns, throw out rubbish, eat meat and dairy, and enjoy the comforts that modern life brings. Hilary is right. If they all bussed or biked to their meetings, ditched their cellphones and eschewed all the above, i.e. led by example, we might agree with their virtuous posturing. As it stands, it’s a nonsense.

Mary Gray


Long haul for flight

Why should an Allanton grandmother have to drive to Queenstown to pick up a relative? Shame on Air NZ: we need international flights in Dunedin.

Susan Easterbrook


Wanakers and Maccas

To all the Wanakers petitioning against the establishment of a McDonald's restaurant in your town, I say get over yourselves. Snobbery is not attractive but Wanaka is. So think about sharing it with younger visitors and the majority of us who can't afford to live there but do like to visit. McDonald's customers are not the great unwashed, just ordinary Kiwis. Look after them. They are an endangered species

Richard O'Mahony
North East Valley


Fast acting

There's been whining about the weeks it's taken to negotiate New Zealand's first three-party coalition agreement. But does anyone realistically think the three main parties on the left would have finished any sooner, or in fact at all?

Bernard Jennings


Flying flags a matter for the govt, not DCC

I do not recall any campaigning council candidates proclaiming advocacy skills regarding conflict settlement around our troubled world. Your article (ODT 24.11.23) reported Councillor Marie Laufiso and Cr Steve Walker tabling a notice of motion to the coming meeting.

This is advocating we support one side in one of the too many wars and conflicts currently oppressing many peoples worldwide - Taiwan, South China Seas, Ukraine and now Palestine/Gaza/Israel to name a few.

If successful, this motion in fairness to recognise all the diverse political allegiances in our local society, requires an informed and full debate.

Does the city need another skill set, perhaps a Department of Foreign Affairs, to ensure councillors are offered unbiased background briefing before choosing to indicate support for any one party in such international conflicts?

Our government should decide who receives our support as a nation. Dunedin councillors should perhaps stick to parking, potholes, pipes and playgrounds and other important local issues.

Peter Ashcroft

It was with surprise I saw one of our DCC councillors Maria Laufiso with her face splashed all over the front page of the ODT.

It's of some concern that an elected councillor would use the office of the DCC to promote her one-sided biased political agenda.

It's not the job of the DCC to get involved with this and they should stay on the main track, sharpen their knitting needles and get to work.

Ms Laufiso can hold her views but keep them outside of her public office. It speaks volumes of why this council has lost its way over recent years.

Hopefully this will be her last rodeo.

Tom Hart
Broad Bay

Address Letters to the Editor to: Otago Daily Times, PO Box 517, 52-56 Lower Stuart St, Dunedin. Email: editor@odt.co.nz