Ferry tale over for KiwiRail

TERMINAL SITE: KiwiRail’s land at Clifford Bay is for sale, including some flat land near Lake Grassmere and some hill country.
TERMINAL SITE: KiwiRail’s land at Clifford Bay is for sale, including some flat land near Lake Grassmere and some hill country.

KiwiRail is giving up on its dream of having a inter-island ferry terminal at Clifford Bay and has put the land it owns there on the market.

The company owns 412.9 hectares of land on the shores of Clifford Bay and Lake Grassmere, south of Blenheim.

It is leased to a farmer, who has been running sheep and beef cattle.

It is understood the land is rated at $1.5 million, but it was hoped it would sell for more than that at tender.

Ngai Tahu sold the flat land to KiwiRail in 1993, but the South Island iwi is not expected to buy it back. Neighbours include Dominion Salt, which harvests salt at Lake Grassmere, and Seddon grapegrower Peter Yealands, as well as two farms. A spokeswoman said yesterday that KiwiRail could confirm that land it owned at Clifford Bay was for sale.

The land was purchased in 1993, the spokeswoman said.

"As a decision has been made that the southern inter-island ferry terminal will remain at Picton, this land is now surplus to KiwiRail requirements, so is being sold."

It is owned through a holding company, Clifford Bay Ltd, but its sole shareholder is KiwiRail and its three directors are KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy, KiwiRail finance chief David Walsh, and Thomas Davis, the general manager of Interislander, which operates KiwiRail's Cook Strait ferry service.

A ferry terminal at Clifford Bay was first proposed in the 1930. KiwiRail has long been keen on it, as the trip would cut an hour of ferry travel times and about half an hour off the train journey.

After a 2 year study, Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee last year ruled out the shift of the South Island terminal from Picton to Clifford Bay, saying it was not commercially viable as a fully funded project.

A government team investigating the proposal found that revenue available from potential ferry operators and major freight users of Clifford Bay would only pay for about half the estimated $525m development cost.

The government would have to pay the other half and carry the risk.

The investigation also found Picton could handle bigger freight volumes over the next 30 years.

Brownlee's spokesman declined to comment on the sale, referring the Marlborough Express to KiwiRail, saying it was an operational issue.

The land is described by Marlborough Bayleys agents Andy Poswillo and John Hoare in an advertisement run nationally as farming 1650 stock units, and "would respond to further development".

The land, in five titles, comes with a four-bedroom house, sheep yards, cattle yards and an on-farm lime quarry.

The advertisement says the property offers a range of land types from grazable estuarine coastal flats to easy medium hill country and workable downs.

"Elevated coastal views and stunning rural vistas offering development potential", it says.

The Marlborough Express