THE VOICE COLUMN
Summer has finally arrvied in the Strath Taieri and while it hasn’t been the best season we’ve seen, neither has it been the worst.
As the season ends and the shadows lengthen, there is a shadow over the Taieri Gorge train with consultation taking place on the future of the section of track from Pukerangi to Middlemarch.
Dunedin Railways, the company with the difficult task of maintaining the service and trying not to lose money, is having to make some difficult decisions.
Sadly, the service has never been a big profit-maker and like Dunedin City Council’s library or aquatic services, it has a large public good aspect and will probably never pay its way entirely through ticket sales.
Dunedin Rail’s consultation needs to be more than a discussion with the locals about closing the track.
They need to constantly keep looking at their operations to make sure that what they are offering for a service fits best with the public and not just the cruise ship market.
It also needs to have a deeper conversation with its owners, the council, on the future of the tracks and the public good this service provides for Dunedin.
While the Local Government Act specifically provides for other factors to be considered, ultimately any cash injection must come from you, the ratepayer.
This train is not the only city attraction that doesn’t pay its way but it is certainly part of our heritage and culture, like Forsyth Barr Stadium, our parks and gardens and Otago Museum, Dunedin Public Art Gallery and Toitu Otago Settlers Museum.
All these institutions play an amazing part in making our city an increasingly desirable place to live.
We need to let the public voice be heard and think what our city would look like if all our decisions came down to just counting the cost in dollars and not looking at the value they bring.
Maybe now is the time to explore new and innovative ways to look at Strath Taieri and see all the potential this wonderful region has to offer.