Buildings and docks at the Picton ferry terminal will probably be ripped out if the port shifts to Clifford Bay, the Port of Marlborough says.
Chief executive Ian McNabb yesterday said there was little chance of attracting a passenger-only ferry service to the small South Island town if freight services shifted further south, making the existing infrastructure "just a straight writeoff".
The Government announced this week it was advancing a proposal to build a new terminal at Clifford Bay, about 35 kilometres south of Blenheim, despite the estimated price tag more than doubling from $200 million to $422m.
The move could cut up to 80 minutes off a road-ferry trip between Wellington and Christchurch, and up to 110 minutes off a rail-ferry journey.
Further investigation will now be undertaken, and a report is due by the end of April. If approved, the terminal could be built by 2020.
But the move has worried Marlborough residents concerned about the impact on Picton.
Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee said this week that it would be a chance for the town to build itself into a tourism destination similar to Queenstown.
But Mr McNabb yesterday doubted that prospect was viable.
There was little chance of attracting a new passenger-only ferry service from Wellington to Picton if the Interislander and Bluebridge services shifted, he said.
Unlike Queenstown, tourism in Picton was largely built around the summer months.
"It's a tough market, and it's a very short-term market."
The existing infrastructure was also customised to the existing ferries, so it was not a simple matter to slot in a new provider.
KiwiRail chief executive Jim Quinn said there could be an opportunity for passenger-only services to Picton, but it was unlikely to be provided by the Interislander.
Although passengers were important, the Cook Strait crossing was also part of the national railway.
"The ferries for us, from a strategy perspective, are a mechanism to enable a national railway."
He was also uncertain of the future of the Coastal Pacific rail journey between Christchurch and Picton.
It was a largely tourism-driven route, but the company would need to assess the value of the ferry connection, he said.
KiwiRail was eagerly awaiting a final decision so long-term planning could be finalised.
Strait Shipping managing director Sheryl Ellison said the company was uncertain about the viability of shifting the port to Clifford Bay.
Strait Shipping operates the Bluebridge ferry service, but the company had seen little information to help determine if it would move from Picton, she said.
"We are extremely eager to understand the business case that has been presented to Cabinet . . .
"If this is all about looking at the long-term road and rail links from a national transport perspective, then with 75 per cent of all interisland freight going to Christchurch or beyond, and an expensive railway track running down the coast, facilities at Lyttelton Port is also an option worth investigating."
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