Thursday, 25 June 2015

Waipu's Railway

Northern Advocate , 24 September 1923, Page 4 (courtesy of Papers Past website)
The Hon. J. G. Coates has earned a reputation for straightforwardness and plain speech, and these qualities were prominent in his method of dealing with a deputation of Waipu settlers on Saturday. The request submitted to the Minister of Public Works by the Waipu people was for the improvement of the road which gives Waipu its best connection with the North Auckland railway, the junction being at Taipuha. The deputation received little encouragement. "Scrap your railway," said the Minister, "and we'll give you good roads." Waipu evidently appears to Mr Coates to be "wanting it both ways." It regards as binding on the present Minister of Public Works a promise made by his predecessor to give Waipu a branch railway, and at the same time it claims that a State Department which is facing a considerable expenditure on the railway should also find money for work on roads. The Minister probably has a good deal of sympathy with the Waipu people, who have had to put up with isolation for very many years, and we are sure that this sympathy is shared by everyone who knows the conditions. But Mr Coates very naturally does not feel justified in giving Waipu two outlets, by rail and by road. Actually he believes, as he has stated definitely on various occasions, that he is not justified in giving Waipu a railway, though he is morally bound to honour a promise given by a former Minister of Public Works. The moral argument is, however, a very weak one. "A promise is a promise," but since the late Sir William Fraser definitely promised the Waipu railway conditions have changed. Motor transport has almost effected a revolution, and experience has shown that branch railways are now unprofitable and inefficient. It is possible for Waipu to obtain connection with the North Auckland railway by two easy road routes, one tapping the line at Taipuha and the other at Oakleigh. The Oakleigh Waipu route would probably become part of the scheme of main highways, so that a good road over that, section would always be maintained. The Oakleigh- Waipu railway, however, can only be a costly, inefficient branch. At the best it is not likely to carry more than two or three trains a week; it is not difficult to imagine an occasional "puffing billy" dragging a couple of antiquated passenger cars at a very safe speed. In order to journey south or send goods south Waipu people would have to pay for a very roundabout rail service, while they could save time and money, for themselves as well as for the whole country, by using the road in reference to the railway. The only ground upon which Waipu can base its claim to a railway is that of a former promise. To go on with the railway is simply to fly in the face of all expert opinion. Moreover, Waipu could have good roads long before it is likely to have its railway. To us. and we are sure to every unbiased looker-on, it seems that Waipu would be consulting its own interests and those of the Dominion if it would renounce the railway and content itself with roads.