PALMERSTON NORTH CITY COUNCIL
KiwiRail Regional Freight Hub
'Regionally significant project of enormous scale' 
Anita Copplestone (Principal Planner) played an integral role in the process that approved a designation enabling the development of KiwiRail’s proposed 177 hectare regional multi-modal freight hub near Palmerston North.
What is a Regional Multi-Modal Freight Hub?
KiwiRail’s Regional Multi-Modal Freight Hub is a regionally significant infrastructure project proposed for the outskirts of Palmerston North. KiwiRail have outgrown their current Tremaine Avenue freight yard, so the proposed Freight Hub is intended to replace it with a future-proofed suite of facilities. These include warehousing, bulk goods storage, log yards, a container terminal and KiwiRail’s network services with capacity to accommodate trains up to 1,500m long. The Freight Hub will enable freight to be transferred between different transportation modes at a single site, being at the ‘cross roads’ between the rail, road and air transportation networks of the lower North Island.
Construction of the hub will be no small feat. The site covers approximately 177ha of land adjacent to the main trunk line in the North East Industrial area of Palmerston North, and extends out to Bunnythorpe. Due to the scale of the facility, it will be built in stages over a 30-year period. Current indications are that construction is likely to start in 2027 once all consents are finalised.
Positive outcomes of the project include a reduction in carbon emissions and road maintenance as well as road safety improvements due to less freight traffic on roads and more via rail.
What role did we play?
KiwiRail lodged a Notice of Requirement for a Designation to be included in the Palmerston North District Plan for the construction and operation of the Freight Hub. Anita was engaged as the s42A reporting Planner on behalf of Palmerston North City Council. Her role commenced with pre-application discussions and procedural guidance to KiwiRail, and continued through the public notification and application evaluation processes. Anita coordinated a large expert technical team to prepare s42A reports. Following s42A reporting, Anita was involved in expert conferencing and at the hearing. Subsequent to the decision, appeals to the Environment Court were lodged and Anita participated in mediation of appeals on behalf of the Council. Given the scale and complexity of the issues and the work involved, Anita drew on others in the Kāhu team to assist.
What positive outcome did we achieve?
Anita took a firm stance in her recommendations to the Hearing Panel. Due to the limited information available on the full scale of activities and resultant effects of the freight hub, her position was that the designation should not be confirmed unless fixed limits were in place (via conditions) to manage effects from the extended construction period and operation of the freight hub. In particular, her recommendations focused on mitigating effects on the surrounding community from noise, light, traffic and visual intrusion, and avoiding over-reliance on yet-to-be-developed management plans to identify and manage effects. The Hearing Panel was receptive to this advice. Anita recommended comprehensive changes to the KiwiRail draft set of conditions that were largely adopted by the Hearing Panel in its recommendation on the Notice of Requirement, and subject to only minor amendments in the decision by KiwiRail.
Why we’re proud
This was a complex proposal with a lot of detailed considerations. We love being involved in challenging projects that demand lots of hard thinking and working with others to achieve really good outcomes. This was a great example of how the experience and skills of the Kāhu team come in behind those of us leading major projects. We’re proud that Anita had the high quality support when she needed it.
We were also pretty proud that the Hearing Panel’s recommendation report acknowledged the ‘impeccable regulatory role undertaken by PNCC’, which is a tribute to Anita’s great work as the s42A Planner.
To read more about this project, visit the project pages for KiwiRail or Palmerston North City Council.
 Report and Recommendations to KiwiRail Holdings Ltd in the matter of a Notice of Requirement by KiwiRail Holdings Limited under s168 of the Act for the Palmerston North Regional Freight Hub, 29 February 2022, para 24.