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Palmerston North freight hub a step closer

KiwiRail’s planned regional freight hub in Palmerston North has reached a major milestone following opposition from some in the community and nearby residents. 

A Palmerston North City Council independent hearing panel recommended the project be given approval after reviewing public submissions. 

It followed public hearings on the designation before the panel in August and September 2021.

It considered assessments, reports, evidence and several site-visits regarding KiwiRail’s Notice of Requirement for 177 hectares of land in the Bunnythorpe area to be dedicated to a multi-modal freight hub. 

The project was awarded $40 million from the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund in 2019.

A social impact assessment estimated around 431 houses and around 1265 residents would be impacted by the development and around 24 houses would need to be bought.

The panel said a significant amount of community concern arose about the effects on landscape and amenity values and the long-term effects of noise from the freight hub. 

It said the recommended conditions will ensure that these effects are adequately avoided, remedied or mitigated. 

“The KiwiRail evidence satisfied the panel that these effects, while regrettable, will be appropriately managed,” it said. 

“The Panel is satisfied that this will provide a sustainable urban fabric for Palmerston North and contribute to the well-being of its citizens and those of the region.” 

KiwiRail property executive general manager Olivia Poulsen say the decision is “great news” and marks a major milestone for the hub project. 

She says KiwiRail had proposed comprehensive conditions for the hub project, including how to manage noise, dust, light and traffic during construction and its later operation; a partnership framework with local iwi to ensure they were involved as the project progressed; and for ongoing community liaison.

“The panel provided feedback on those conditions, including suggesting some small changes. We are currently working through those, before responding to the council in the next month.

“The hub will be transformational, supporting economic development in the Manawatu and stimulating growth in Palmerston North’s already important logistics sector. It will also enable more freight to go on rail – reducing transport carbon emissions – and relieve traffic congestion from heavy trucks in the city.

“We fully appreciate that a hub of this size will change the landscape on the northern edge of Palmerston North, but we are confident any effects can be mitigated. We are looking forward to working with the community to manage changes in the years ahead.

“We are now working on a business case for investment to build the hub. The aim is for it to begin operating around 2030,” Poulsen says.

The next step in the designation process is that KiwiRail has 30 working days to advise Palmerston North City Council whether it accepts or rejects the recommendation in whole or in part. The council will notify those who submitted of the feedback and an appeal period will follow. Read more...

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