Shifting port could affect rates revenue

Last updated 12:10 14/02/2013

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Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman is worried by what he has heard at meetings in the region this week on the Government's proposal to shift the interisland ferries from Picton to Clifford Bay, south of Seddon.

Mr Sowman said yesterday that initial feedback from the public meetings was that the Clifford Bay proposal would have immediate and critical impact on Picton, in particular.

It would create some opportunities on the east coast, but there was not yet a clear understanding of whether the overall impact on the region was going to be positive or negative, he said.

"Personally I am very worried by what I have been hearing. I'm also worried that we've been allowed so little information."

The council was reviewing the impact the project could have on its own finances.

"We do know that there would be a significant loss of our dividend from Port Marlborough, which currently helps to subsidise rates across the region."

The Picton-based port company, Port Marlborough, is fully owned by the Marlborough District Council and its $1.3 million annual dividend to the council went directly to the council's rates.

The uncertainty and lack of information from the Government on its proposals meant it was not straightforward to assemble a complete picture, Mr Sowman said. "But we need to fully understand if, and where, there might be any impact on our rates revenue and whether central government would attempt to lay any costs associated with this project at the door of the local ratepayer. That would be completely unacceptable."

His single biggest concern was the social impact on Picton in particular, and the downstream effect on families, schools and employment throughout the district.

"I understand that the Government is looking at the national benefit of this proposal and concentrating on the pure financial justification of going ahead, or not. "My job is to understand all the regional ramifications, including the social consequences of this.

"Governments don't have a good track record of acknowledging that part of the whole equation."

He urged people who have spoken up to collate their facts and figures and for others to get involved.

The council has set up a special email address and wants anyone with an interest in the effects of the plan to send in any information of substance.

It was accepting submissions till February 25, either by email to clifford.bay@marlborough.govt.nz or to Jamie Lyall at the council.

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- The Marlborough Express

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