Ferry meeting tipped to draw crowd

Looking out to Clifford Bay
Looking out to Clifford Bay

A public meeting in Picton tonight is the first of several the Marlborough District Council will hold to hear the community's views about shifting the interisland port from Picton to Clifford Bay, south of Seddon.

Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman said the meeting was likely to be popular and had been moved to a bigger venue, the Queen Charlotte College hall, starting at 7pm tonight.

It will be followed by meetings at noon tomorrow at the Awatere Memorial Hall in Seddon, and at 7pm at the Marlborough Convention Centre in Blenheim.

The fourth meeting is on Wednesday at noon in the Havelock Hall in Havelock.

Mr Sowman said people from Nelson were expected to attend the meeting in Picton because that region was also concerned about the impact of a possible move.

Professional facilitator, Kobus Mentz, who led the council's meetings on town planning four years ago, would facilitate the meetings, he said.

The views and information shared at the meetings would be recorded and a report prepared for council.

The report should be ready for the council's community financial and planning committee meeting on March 14, Mr Sowman said.

Mr Sowman will kick off the meetings with an introduction, and then a senior council staff member will outline the Government's proposal, the Clifford Bay design and location, and the process and timing.

Mr Mentz will give an overview on the "Grow Marlborough" strategy as it related to Picton, Blenheim, Seddon and Ward, and then would facilitate public discussion, before summarising that discussion and outlining the next steps.

Mr Sowman said the Ministry of Transport has stressed that, at this stage, the financial feasibility of the project was still being assessed.

Any decision by the Government to move to the next stage was still some months away, he said.

However, it was important to begin the task of assembling information on the impact on businesses and communities, Mr Sowman said.

"This will be a central government decision but we do want to make sure that council can relay to those politicians an authoritative report on the regional impact; both the upside and the downside of such a decision."

The Marlborough Express