The Fairfield Freight Hub will be transformational for the district’s economy when it opens next year.
A sod turning ceremony was held for the $14 million project, a triparty commercial development between the Wareing Group, KiwiRail, and the Ashburton District Council that is planned to be operational this time next year.
“It’s going to help the regional economics of Mid Canterbury,” Wareing Group director Mark Wareing said.
“For Ashburton, it means we can now compete in the future with Rolleston as a business park, which I don’t think you would have said if we didn’t get rail here.”
The current freight terminal in the centre of Ashburton will move north to Wareing Group’s new Fairfield Freight Hub, next to the Ashburton Business Estate, once it’s completed.
Ashburton Mayor Neil Brown said he had been waiting for the project to start for over four years since first getting the call from Wareing.
“Mark had the vision to get the trucks off our congested state highway and put the containers that transport those goods onto rail,” Brown said.
The project ticks all the boxes, Brown said.
“Trucks off roads, shunting yards out of the Ashburton CBD and less carbon in the environment.”
Since the project planning began, the Wareing Group has taken over running the shunting yard in Ashburton and increased the volume from 2000 containers per year to almost 6000.
When the freight hub is up and running, Brown said it will load around 20,000 containers per year “carrying the produce from the farms and businesses to the ports, something that could not be achieved from the CBD terminal.”
It’s a big boost for the local economy and also the environment.
Moving the containers on rail will see a reduction of around 40,000 truck movements per year, Wareing said.
“As transport operators, we know we have a responsibility to reduce our carbon and for sure this is one way for us to do it.”
Consents are being processed and once they get the paperwork sorted, Wareing said it will be action stations to transform the site into the new terminal in around 12 months.
Long haul project
“We’ve been on this little journey for a day or two.”
At the ceremonial start of the project, Mark Wareing said it was the result of the first email that was sent to KiwiRail over three years ago.
Before contacting KiwiRail, Wareing had started to look into utilising “heavy productivity motor vehicles” when a chance meeting with Talley’s Aaron Chudleigh had him change course.
Talley’s had purchased the old Ashburton meat works site which had a pre-existing siding, the ideal spot for a new freight terminal.
“My little job of a couple of million dollars escalated very quickly,” Wareing said.
After some negotiations with Talley’s and plenty of discussion with KiwiRail, the Ministry of Transport, and the council, the plan was in motion but needed the capital.
The Wareing Group are major funder but in October 2021 the Government confirmed a $2.5m contribution from Waka Kotahi’s NZ Upgrade Programme and the council has committed $2.3m.
- Jonathan Leask