Public meetings over ferry proposed

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 11:30 14/12/2012
Ferry terminal
Marlborough District Council
Site of the proposed ferry terminal and port

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Marlborough district councillors yesterday agreed to hold public meetings on the Government proposal to move the Cook Strait ferry terminal from Picton, in February.

The meetings, originally proposed for March, would be held a month earlier in response to community concern about the proposal to shift the terminal from Picton to Clifford Bay, south of Seddon.

Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman proposed the meetings, which will be held with a professional facilitator in Picton, Blenheim, Seddon and Ward.

Mr Sowman said there were not only economic ramifications for Marlborough from the potential shift, but social ones as well, because about 100 Picton families worked with the ferries.

He said the council wanted to put together a co-ordinated plan, and was keen to work with other organisations such as the Marlborough Chamber of Commerce.

"It is better to have a concerted effort across the province."

Council chief executive Andrew Besley said more information needed to be made public for the reasoning behind the proposal to be understood.

It appeared that the Government would have to be a major underwriter for the project to go ahead, to the tune of between $20 million to $30m a year, he said. "Government would have to believe and understand that there would be significant national benefits in doing that."

Mr Besley said it was hoped more information would be made public, particularly on the social impact. He would write to the Ministry of Transport, at Mr Sowman's request, to make sure a "fair amount of effort" was put into social impact studies.

He said more work needed to be done on that, as well as the impact on infrastructure and issues such as water availability.

He warned councillors that some parts of the Marlborough community were supportive of the proposal to move the port, as they could see opportunities from it.

There were opportunities for the council to consider, too: KiwiRail's landholdings in Picton, for example. The paper to councillors says the rail marshalling yards had potential benefits for the Picton community if it was available for development.

"We don't want them to be derelict for many years."

The ministry's timetable of milestones in the Clifford Bay project was already out of date, Mr Besley said. A team of private sector experts and public officials was to have been appointed in October or November, but the ministry confirmed earlier this week those appointments had yet to be made.

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- The Marlborough Express

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