Shift 'really a matter of when'

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 16:19 13/02/2013
Colin King
MP Colin King believes the inter-island port will move from Picton to Clifford Bay

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It's not will Clifford Bay happen, but when, Kaikoura MP Colin King says.

Mr King and Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman were quizzed at a meeting in Blenheim last night about the Government's proposal to move the interislander port from Picton to Clifford Bay, south of Seddon.

The meeting was the third of four organised by the Marlborough District Council to assess community views on the proposal. The final meeting is to be held in Havelock Hall today at noon.

Blenheim's meeting, attended by about 120 people, was occasionally tetchy as people struggled to understand the rationale for the shift. It did not seem to be economically viable, and construction costs would be higher than the $422 million the Government had quoted.

The mood was mainly opposed to the shift, but several speakers wanted to move on, saying the decision was going to be made somewhere else and Marlborough had to concentrate on making the most of it.

Blenheim man Phil Sowman said the proposal to move the port seemed to come up regularly. He wanted to know if this investigation would be final or whether it would be revisited in another five or 10 years.

Mr King said New Zealand had a transport logistics problem and it was Cook Strait.

"In my heart of hearts, I think it's not about will it be done, but when it will be done. The pressure will keep building. This idea will keep in circulation . . . we need to confront it from that point of view."

He said the social impact of the proposal could not be given the same weight as the economic impact.

His role as the MP representing the region was to ensure the community was uppermost in ministers' minds when making the decision, he said, but he warned that the decision was being made on the national benefit, not on the impact on Marlborough.

Blenheim resident Phillip MacDonald said people in the region wanted their representatives to stand up to the Government and tell them that Marlborough said no to the proposal.

"People in Wellington don't give a toss about how hard it's going to be here. It's up to us."

The mayor said the council had to represent everyone in the community, and there were those who saw opportunities in the proposal. If the council took a position to oppose it, it would take the council out of the debate, Mr Sowman said.

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Submissions can be made to include in the report to the council by February 25. They can be emailed to clifford.bay@marlborough.govt.nz or sent to Jamie Lyall at the council.

- The Marlborough Express

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