Picton businesses warn final cruise ship could mark start of 'miserable' winter

Indulge owners Mel and Mike Stewart will close their Picton ice cream shop for winter next week, and say the lack of ...
JEFFREY KITT/FAIRFAX NZ

Indulge owners Mel and Mike Stewart will close their Picton ice cream shop for winter next week, and say the lack of tourists from Christchurch was noticeable over summer.

The final ship in the cruise calendar could mark the start of a winter more miserable than usual, concerned business owners in Picton say.

The Marlborough port town is bracing itself for the removal of international cruise tourists while it continues to feel the fallout of the State Highway 1 redirection.

The Radiance of the Seas and its 2500 passengers disembark in Picton for the final stop in the 2016/17 season on Friday.

The Emerald Princess steams past Waikawa Bay in February.
SCOTT HAMMOND/FAIRFAX NZ

The Emerald Princess steams past Waikawa Bay in February.

Evolve owner Jane Briggs said while the end of cruise ship season would make a difference to visitor numbers and spend, it was the highway that posed a problem.

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The November earthquake doubled the travel time between Picton and Christchurch by creating an inland detour dubbed the "white knuckle highway."

The largest cruise ship to visit New Zealand waters, the Ovation of the Seas, visited Picton three times over the ...
MATT SCHOLLUM

The largest cruise ship to visit New Zealand waters, the Ovation of the Seas, visited Picton three times over the 2016/17 cruise season.

The clothing boutique used to receive many shoppers from Kaikoura and Christchurch but did not anymore, Briggs said.

"It does make a difference, it is absolutely less busy. You have to expect that it could be a quiet winter with the road being closed," she said.

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"Winter is potentially going to be more miserable than usual."

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Almost 40 cruise ships visited Picton and brought 73,000 passengers to the region in the 2016/17 season.

Cruise New Zealand estimated the cruise industry added $13.5 million to the Marlborough economy during that time.

The end of the cruise season signalled the start of quieter months in the port town and some businesses had decided to close entirely.

Indulge owner Mel Stewart said the ice cream shop closed every year for winter, but bach owners and Cantabrian regulars were noticeably missing during summer.

"Two days of travel to get here on a long weekend seems to have put a lot of people off," she said.

"Fingers crossed that the road gets fixed, and that's not just for us but for everybody."

Picton Smart and Connected visitor economy group leader Hamish Watson said the removal of SH1 was an unknown for the coming winter.

"We know now how a summer will go, but this winter we have nothing to compare it to," he said.

Watson, who was also the owner of Fresh Choice Picton, said snow and road closures on the inland route of SH63, 65, 6 and 7 might also impact deliveries to Picton.

"It will create headaches if we get a reasonably serious winter," he said.

Despite road concerns, the cruise season had been successful for the town, Watson said.

Port Marlborough business delivery manager Rhys Welbourn said it had been a great cruise season for the region which was notable for a number of reasons.

"Perhaps the most obvious, though, is that we hosted the largest cruise ship to ever visit New Zealand three times and were able to accommodate her alongside the wharf at Waimahara," he said.

"To put that in perspective, Ports of Auckland were unable to do that.

"I would think the benefit to Marlborough as a whole from cruise ship visits is huge ... It's also a good way to get 70,000 people telling their friends about our products."

The Radiance of the Seas would be the first ship to return for the 2017/18 cruise ship season when it docked in Picton on October 5.

 - The Marlborough Express

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