Jobs on line in ferry proposal

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 07:35 19/02/2013

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About 400 ferry-related jobs could be lost from Picton if the interisland ferries moved to Clifford Bay, south of Seddon, Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman said yesterday.

Feedback from four public meetings last week suggested Picton could lose about 200 port, rail and ferry related jobs and that figure could double when associated employment in the retail, hospitality and accommodation sector was taken into account, he said.

"Some of this will be displacement - with jobs moving to Clifford Bay - but many of Picton's tourism and retail jobs will be wiped out."

The drop in population, coupled with unemployment and businesses losses, would have a direct effect on Picton's schools and social services, he said.

Mr Sowman said he wrote to Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee yesterday to ask for an independent and thorough assessment of the social and economic impact to Marlborough be done before the government made a decision to shift the port.

"That's going to be another cost in this proposal but I am sure the Government, if it wants to proceed, will acknowledge its responsibility to look at all aspects of this project thoroughly."

Marlborough's ratepayers should not carry the cost of the planning and research for a national project, nor should they be expected to fund a study into the impacts they would face if the shift to Clifford Bay went ahead, Mr Sowman said.

"If this goes ahead, there is a very big risk that Marlborough - even the whole top of the south - will become a regional cul de sac."

There was no doubt the project would bring some benefits, Mr Sowman said. There would be construction investment and jobs on the Awatere side, and the positive aspects of reducing some of the heavy freight traffic through Blenheim.

But any new port-related jobs would be more than matched by losses elsewhere, particularly in the tourism industry, he said.

"Construction project work comes to an end - our tourism industry is a permanent part of our local economy."

Mr Sowman said establishing Clifford Bay would raise a need for new community facilities and services in the Awatere and the scale and quality of water and sewerage infrastructure would need to be addressed.

He said some ferry-related businesses would have to shift their operations and there would be cost involved in that.

The loss of a chunk of Port Marlborough's dividend would be a blow to ratepayers, diminishing an important revenue source for the region as well.

"If the Government does decide it is in the national interest to go ahead with the move to Clifford Bay, we cannot afford to have central government pushing costs onto our ratepayers, either for the project itself or for the planning in the run up to it. That would be grossly unfair to the ratepayers of this region."

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- The Marlborough Express

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