Clifford Bay ferry proposal 'audacious'
The Government has declined to clarify comments by Prime Minister John Key on the proposal to move the inter-island ferries to Clifford Bay.
The project is being studied by a team in the Ministry of Transport; it is expected to report to the Government by the end of this month.
In an article in Nelson-Marlborough lifestyle magazine Wild Tomato, Mr Key described the proposal to move the inter-island ferries from Picton to Clifford Bay, south of Seddon, as "audacious".
While he said the proposal had merit, he expressed doubt about the cost of the project and whether it would deliver the gains people believed it would.
"But I think the numbers - I'm not sure but $600 million springs to mind, so it's a massively expensive project. It's one of those things that people talk about a lot but will anyone actually pull the trigger on it?"
Asked by the magazine whether the project would go ahead, Mr Key said he did not know.
"I know they're doing a feasibility study and they're looking very closely at it. All I'm saying is that it would take an enormous commitment to do it.
"It's not impossible it won't happen, but equally I'm not saying it's definitely going to get the tick. It would take a lot of thinking. Cabinet has just been prepared to tick off on the feasibility study but not on overall yes or no."
The Marlborough Express asked Mr Key for clarification, but staff in his office directed questions to Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee's office.
Staff there declined to comment, saying that until Cabinet had decided whether the project would go ahead, there would be no comment.
"Regarding the prime minister's comments in Wild Tomato magazine, and the minister's views of Clifford Bay and its viability, I'm afraid you'll have to wait until the report is delivered and the Cabinet has considered it, at which point we'll have more to say."
In the article, Mr Key said he was not convinced that moving the ferries would do a lot of damage to Picton long-term.
"I think Picton would regroup and reshape as totally tourism without the ferries going through there, so in the long-term Picton could come back stronger because its such a beautiful part of the world."
Port Marlborough chief executive Ian McNabb confirmed yesterday that the Ministry of Transport's project team was still working on its report.
He said he had talked with project team leader Andrew Robertson last week.
While he wouldn't say what those talks were about, Mr McNabb confirmed that Mr Robertson said the project team was endeavouring to have the report with the minister by the end of September.
- The Marlborough Express