The Tāneatua Branch is a 25-kilometre (16 mi) long[1] branch railway line in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand, running from Hawkens Junction, west of Edgecumbe, to Tāneatua.

Tāneatua Branch
Tāneatua railway station in 1958
OwnerNew Zealand Railways Corporation
Rolling stockNone
Line length25 km (16 mi)
Number of tracksSingle
Track gauge1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in)
Route map

to Kawerau
to Hamilton
Awaiti Canal
Awaiti Canal
Omeheu Road
Omeheu Canal
Tawa Street
Matahina Tramway (closed 1966)
Main Street (Edgecumbe)
Rangitaiki River
Fonterra Edgecumbe
Reids Central Canal
Western Drain Road
Mangaroa Stream
Whakatane Board Mills Line (closed 2001)
Whakatāne West
Whakatāne River
Route to Opotiki



From 2 September 1928 to 1978 the line was part of the East Coast Main Trunk (ECMT) line from Hamilton. The original intention was for the ECMT to connect to Gisborne via Paeroa, Tauranga, Opotiki and through the Waioeka Gorge, connecting with the Moutohora Branch to Gisborne; creating a link from the isolated Gisborne section line to Auckland via the Bay of Plenty.[2]

This line across the Rangitaiki Plains follows an inland or southerly route to avoid areas which were swampy at the time of construction, therefore bypassing Whakatāne, the largest town in the area. The intention was for the line to be extended from Tāneatua to Opotiki, then onwards east to connect with the isolated Gisborne Section line from Gisborne.[3]

Extension to Opotiki and Gisborne


Some construction work was carried out beyond Tāneatua towards Opotiki in 1928, and an opening ceremony was held for the new line (the ECMT) in Tauranga on 28 March 1928.[4][5][6][7] When the Minister of Public Works Bob Semple turned the first sod for building the Paeroa–Pokeno Line on 28 January 1938, it was said that the proposed 47 km (29 mi) line would shorten the distance from Auckland to towns on the ECMT by nearly 80 km (50 mi).[8][9][10][11] Work was stopped in July 1928 when the Government of the day transferred the construction workers to the Rotorua-Taupo line which it had just approved the construction of. As late as 1939 £45,000 was provided for extension from Taneatua to Opotiki.[12]

Various routes were investigated and surveyed to link the difficult section between Tāneatua and Moutohora, but all were found to be difficult and expensive. Following the Great Depression, the Second World War and the greater availability of road vehicles in the period after the war, the proposal was dropped and Tāneatua remained the eastern terminus of the railway line in the Bay of Plenty. Gisborne was subsequently linked to the south with Wellington by way of Napier and Palmerston North with the Palmerston North – Gisborne Line in 1942. The isolated Gisborne Section line became the Moutohora Branch line, which closed in 1959.[3]

Extension to Whakatane


NZR proposed extending the branch to Whakatane from the Whakatane West railway station to a new terminus across the Whakatane River. The proposal never eventuated.[13]

Passenger service


A passenger service was provided on the line with the Taneatua Express from Auckland between 1928 and 1959.[3] In 1959 railcars replaced this service, but they only operated between Auckland and Te Puke, due to negligible passenger traffic between Te Puke and Tāneatua.[14]



With the opening of the Kaimai tunnel in 1978, the terminus of the East Coast Main Trunk line was changed to Kawerau and the section of line between Hawkens Junction and Tāneatua became the Tāneatua Branch line.[15]

Board Mills Line


The Whakatane Board Mills Line, a private line, was built and operated by the Whakatane Board Mills (WBM) from Awakeri to their mill in 1937 to serve their large operation. It was proposed that NZR would take over the line once it was completed, but despite several attempts to reach an agreement between the two parties, the line remained in WBM ownership.[13]

This line was privately operated by the mill until 1999 when the then-national rail operator Tranz Rail took over the operation of the line. Tranz Rail discontinued operating the line in 2001.[16] The line was closed in 2003, together with the mothballing of the entire Tāneatua Branch line.



In 2015 a rail cart operation, Awakeri Rail Adventures,[17] was established on the section of the line from Awakeri eastward to Rewatu Road. Some of the track further east was removed in 2017.[18]

See also





  1. ^ Yonge 1985, p. 6.
  2. ^ Wood 1996, p. 46.
  3. ^ a b c Churchman & Hurst 2001, p. 115.
  4. ^ "Map of ECMT showing completed sections". Auckland Star. 28 March 1928.
  5. ^ "Photo of a history-making train to Tauranga". Auckland Star. 29 March 1928.
  6. ^ "Photos of two large bridges on the ECMT". New Zealand Herald. 28 March 1928.
  7. ^ "Photo in Tauranga of the official opening of the new ECMT line". Auckland Star. 28 March 1928.
  8. ^ "1938 map of proposed ECMT line". New Zealand Herald. 25 January 1938.
  9. ^ "1938, Bob Semple to turn first sod for ECMT". Auckland Star. 27 January 1938.
  10. ^ "1938, photo of Bob Semple". New Zealand Herald. 28 January 1938.
  11. ^ "1938, presentation to Bob Semple". New Zealand Herald. 28 January 1938.
  12. ^ "EXTRA £815,000 - NEW ZEALAND HERALD". 16 September 1939. Retrieved 15 March 2020.
  13. ^ a b Russell Jnr. 1980, p. 24.
  14. ^ Brett & van der Weerden 2021, p. 179.
  15. ^ Churchman & Hurst 2001, p. 114.
  16. ^ Brett & van der Weerden 2021, p. 40.
  17. ^ "Awakeri Rail Adventures".
  18. ^ "Pekatahi Bridge (Whakatāne, N.Z.)". National Library of New Zealand. Retrieved 30 July 2022.


  • Brett, André; van der Weerden, Sam (2021). Can't Get There From Here - New Zealand Passenger Rail Since 1920. Otago University Press. ISBN 9781990048098.
  • Churchman, Geoffrey B; Hurst, Tony (2001) [1990, 1991]. The Railways of New Zealand: A Journey through History (Second ed.). Transpress New Zealand. ISBN 0-908876-20-3.
  • Hermann, Bruce J; North Island Branch Lines pp 39,40 (2007, New Zealand Railway & Locomotive Society, Wellington) ISBN 978-0-908573-83-7
  • Wood, Chris (1996). Steaming to the Sunrise; a history of railways in the Gisborne region. Gisborne, New Zealand: IPL Books, in conjunction with Te Rau Herald Print. ISBN 0-908876-92-0.
  • Russell Jnr., John (1980). Bay of Plenty Railways. Railway Enthusiasts Society.
  • Yonge, John (1985). New Zealand Railway and Tramway Atlas (Third ed.). Quail Map Company. ISBN 090060932X.