Confidentiality deal on ferry proposal

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 11:30 09/01/2013
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The Marlborough District Council has signed a confidentiality agreement with the Government over its proposal to shift the interisland port to Clifford Bay, south of Seddon, but says this won't affect its work on a community response to the proposal.

A Ministry of Transport spokesman said yesterday that three key stakeholders - the council, KiwiRail, and Strait Shipping - had signed confidentiality agreements so the ministry could hold "confidential strategic and commercial discussions" with them.

The ministry had a project team working to prepare for commercial discussions with existing ferry operators Interislander and Strait Shipping, he said.

"The project team is also in a position to have more detailed discussions with the Marlborough District Council and we expect those to happen over the next few months."

Acting council chief executive Mark Wheeler confirmed yesterday the council had signed a confidentiality agreement with the ministry. The agreement involved the mayor and some councillors, he said.

"It has been signed off by council."

The Marlborough Express yesterday contacted planning committee chairman David Dew and Picton ward councillors Trevor Hook and Graeme Barsanti, who all said they did not know about the agreement. Fellow Picton ward councillor David Oddie could not be contacted.

Mr Wheeler said there should not be any conflict between the council discussing the Marlborough community's response to the Government proposal and it taking part in discussions with the ministry that required a confidentiality agreement.

"I can't see how the development of our community response to shift Clifford Bay is covered by the confidentiality agreement."

The council's role was to develop a community response, he said. It was the ministry's job to justify the shift.

"It's the Ministry of Transport, as a government agency, that's looking at shifting, to justify why it's looking at it, not council. We're not looking to do that."

The Ministry of Transport spokesman said the ministry did not expect the confidentiality agreement with the Marlborough District Council to have any impact on the proposed public meetings.

"Furthermore, the Marlborough District Council is an independent party in regard to the Clifford Bay investigation and is free to make its own statements as it sees fit."

The spokesman said the "immediate focus" for the project team was to prepare for ongoing commercial discussions with the existing ferry operators Interislander and Strait Shipping, and later "more detailed discussions" with the Marlborough District Council.

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Meetings would be held according to timetables agreeable to the respective parties and would not be published, he said.

"The ministry has confidentiality agreements in place with the three organisations mentioned above so the project team can hold confidential strategic and commercial discussions."

The spokesman said team director Andrew Robertson was not available to speak with the Express.

Interislander general manager Thomas Davis said yesterday it expected to have meetings with the project team during the coming months. "A confidentiality agreement is in place so that commercial discussions with the project team can be undertaken."

Interislander is owned by KiwiRail and operates a rail ferry service for KiwiRail between Picton and Wellington.

Strait Shipping managing director Sheryl Ellison was unable to be contacted yesterday.

- The Marlborough Express

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