'Mother Nature's played a hard game' – no date yet for reopening of Kaikoura rail line

Nothing could have prepared the newly built Main North Line for the "exceptional" rainfall that led to its closure on Saturday, says KiwiRail.

It's been less than a month since crowds welcomed the first train to travel on the line between Picton and Christchurch following the Kaikoura earthquake.

KiwiRail says unusually heavy rain in September and the first half of October had caused 31 slips in the area, sending material onto the railway and road.

Acting chief executive David Gordon says the setback couldn’t have been avoided.

"It's just been appalling weather. Mother Nature's just played a hard game with us. The seaboard in Kaikoura is quite preponderous to slip. It will be with us before the quake and it'll be with us after the quake."

However, Mr Gordon is confident the work they are doing will help to mitigate poor weather conditions in the future.

"We’ll be putting it back better than it was. We're doing quite a bit in terms of moving the rail away from the base of the cliffs in a number of areas and dragging down loose debris. We're putting catch traps in place so if there is a slip, it gets caught before it gets on the line".

The aim is to have the line reopened by October 31, but Mr Gordon says "realistically we're not going to know until next Monday".

"We've got a lot of digger work to do, just to take debris away from the bottom. Set up the safety fences again to get ready for operation".

Truck drivers are hopeful the line will be back in working order by the end of the month, as newly running trains have shouldered some of the heavy freight burden placed on the alternate route after the November 11 earthquake.

They now face the added pressure of an upswing in freight volumes, with the Christmas period approaching.

"They're still vulnerable," Road Transport Forum chief executive Ken Shirley told 1 NEWS.

"They'll be stretched with the consumer demand.. but we shouldn't be too surprised about the closure. It's a small step back".

The link was only just reopened following the Kaikoura quake, and is now out until the end of the month. Source: Breakfast

KiwiRail acknowledged many people may be disappointed by the closure, but committed to "getting it right" for New Zealand and those living along the coast.

Kiwirail's acting chief executive David Gordon says they aim to have the line repaired by October 31. Source: 1 NEWS



What happens once NZ First decides on preferred coalition partner? 1 NEWS' Katie Bradford explains

The process won't be over when Winston Peters announces NZ First's preferred coalition partner or partners, with the parties going through different processes to accept the deal. 

1 NEWS political reporter Katie Bradford said it is understood the NZ First caucus are currently meeting but Winston Peters hasn't talked to the media today. 

"The big question on everybody's lips is when will the NZ First board be able to meet?" Ms Bradford said. 

Once the board decides on a deal, it will go back to the selected party or parties for confirmation. 

"National and Labour have different policies or processes in place once a decision has been made.

"Labour will take a decision to their executive... National on the other hand take it to their caucus and their board to sign off."

"The Greens have a conference call ready to go with their delegates."

DEADLINE TOO AMBITIOUS

The 1 NEWS political editor says no-one holds it against Mr Peters for extending his self-imposed deadline Source: Breakfast

This morning 1 NEWS political editor Corin Dann said a deadline to decide the next government by today was too ambitious. 

"Winston Peters took quite a while to acknowledge the deadline has been missed," Mr Dann said. 

But no-one holds it against the NZ First leader, Mr Dann said on TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning. 

"It was his own deadline, one or two days here or there isn't that much of an issue."

"It's just the continued uncertainty about it that's a bit frustrating, and now the situation with the board suddenly having to fly in to Wellington... It just seems a bit odd they weren't on stand-by."

He said there was "huge pressure" on the NZ First board.

"Ulitmately that board, in a funny roundabout way, is picking who the next prime minister is."He said secrecy around the board could be a stalling tactic, or as the members are not elected members of parliament, "Maybe Winston Peters is trying to protect them from scrutiny". 

Mr Dann predicted Mr Peters would announce the decision on Monday. 

It's not a done deal, even when Winston Peters announces his party's choice. Source: 1 NEWS

TODAY'S
FEATURED STORIES

Kiwi at Passchendaele searching for great-grandfather's German saviour

The great-grandson of a heroic Kiwi solider wants to reunite an empty wallet with the family of a German officer who saved his ancestor's life in World War I. 

Private Hayden Cullen from Cambridge is at Passchendaele commemorations near Ypres, Belgium for the centenary of the greatest loss of New Zealand life in a single day, where about 960 soldiers were killed or mortally wounded. 

Hayden is part of the NZ Army band over in Passchendaele for the 100 year commemorations, but he's also on the hunt to find the family of a German officer who saved his great-grandfather's life. 

"If it wasn't for him we wouldn't be here," Hayden said. 

His great grandfather Private Ray Cullen was part of the NZ Machine Gun Corps during the 1918 liberation of the French town Le Quesnoy from German hands since 1914. 

However a shell exploded in the machine gun post, killing five of Ray Cullen's crew and leaving him seriously wounded. 

He tried to make his way back to friendly lines, but collapsed after losing blood.

A German officer and his men who were about to surrender came across him, and made a stretcher out of their tunics. 

They carried Ray Cullen to get medical attention. 

Before the Germans were taken into captivity, the German officer gave Ray Cullen his wallet, which the Cullen family have attempted to return to the unknown savior ever since. 

Hayden told 1 NEWS the wallet has the German officer's initials on it, H. Held, and the officer's name was Henrick Held from Hanover. 

"I want to get in contact with family to thank them for what their relative did for us."

"We've managed to find some promising leads. And maybe some relatives... so it's looking very promising."

More footage from Passchendaele

The pair spoke briefly at the resting place of 512 Kiwis who lost their lives in the battle. Source: 1 NEWS

The pair spoke briefly at the resting place of 512 Kiwis who lost their lives in the battle. Source: 1 NEWS

He spoke passionately about the devastating impact the military offensive had on New Zealand. Source: 1 NEWS

Today marks 100 years since 846 Kiwi soldiers lost their lives in the Battle of Passchendaele. Source: 1 NEWS

All they have is a wallet, and a pretty inspiring story of heroism. Source: 1 NEWS