NZ region paves China Railway's path for B&R initiative

Updated 2017-04-17 09:31:27 Global Times/Agencies

A far-north New Zealand region has agreed to help China Railway Group invest in infrastructure in the depressed area, a regional council head told Reuters, as China looks to further advance its "One Belt, One Road" (B&R) initiative.

The Northland Regional Council agreed last week to give China Railway information on possible investments, such as high-end hotels and roads, advise it on the New Zealand government procurement process and make introductions to national government officials.

It was not specified how much China Railway will invest in the region.

The regional authority plans to help China Railway bid for the construction of a 22-kilometer stretch of national highway from Whangarei to a commercial port at Marsden Point to the south.

"If we can provide some expertise and the system that brings forward some of that investment to help the Northland economy to grow, then that makes a whole lot of sense for us," said Bill Shephard, the council chairman, in a phone interview.

The move is the latest on New Zealand's part to cooperate on Chinese President Xi Jinping's B&R global infrastructure drive to link China to Asia and beyond.

New Zealand became the first Western country to formally recognize China's initiative through a bilateral memorandum of understanding last month and was a founding member of the multilateral Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

"Part of our discussions are to explain to them [China Railway] how New Zealand works, and we talked to them about the fact that we've got good linkages with government agencies," Shephard said.

The New Zealand Transport Agency was not immediately available to comment on when it would open a tender for construction of the highway section.

Wang Zhenyu, a fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, said there is a lack of bankable projects in countries and regions along the B&R route, something that a country like New Zealand offers.

"New Zealand has great need for infrastructure and the two countries have a lot of cooperation potential in this area," Wang said.

The Northland area, with ancient native forests and long golden beaches, is popular with tourists, but it has struggled as economic activity shifts to more populated areas.

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