Private investors are already showing an interest in backing a new ferry port at Clifford Bay, south of Blenheim.
Minister of Transport Steven Joyce announced yesterday plans to investigate building a $200 million port at Clifford Bay, replacing the Picton terminal.
Morrison and Co executive Tim Brown, said on Radio New Zealand this morning the specialist infrastructure investment management firm had established a fund with the New Zealand Superannuation Fund to provide public-private partnership funding.
The ferry terminal was exactly the type of business a public-private partnership would be looking to fund, he said. It fitted the bill as an infrastructural asset with a very creditworthy user and a relatively certain income over a long period of time.
"It's like a bond, but better."
At present, such investments were being applied in Australia.
"If there was an opportunity available in New Zealand, you can be sure there would be people turning up and saying they were keen to fund it."
Ngai Tahu was also reported on radio as saying it was always interested in partnerships with the public sector
Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman said the council had not considered whether it would invest in such a project and he was surprised companies were already indicating they would be keen.
"At this stage, the viability is still unknown. It's a huge investment and could take a long time to get a return. I wouldn't imagine the council itself will want to invest in it," he said.
Nelson and Blenheim freight companies would have to pay higher charges, because their freight would have to be taken to Ward, but the move could open up more opportunities for Picton.
"It will be nice to see those freight yards out of Picton. Sometimes, when one door closes, another opens. I'm sure Picton will rise to the challenge and if this goes ahead, I still see opportunities for passengers to come to Picton," he said.
Port Marlborough has not ruled out the possibility of investing in the new ferry terminal.
Chief executive Ian McNabb said it was too early to say whether the port company would want to be part of any public-private partnership.
"It will be a long time away, but I wouldn't rule out any options," he said.
A spokeswoman for Bluebridge Cook Strait Ferry said it was too early to comment on whether it would move to a new ferry terminal.
KiwiRail's predecessor, TranzRail, started looking at the idea of a new terminal in the early 1990s.
The company bought land at Clifford Bay and was granted consent to develop a port, but that ran out in 2005.
KiwiRail chief executive Jim Quinn said although the company owned the land where the new ferry terminal was proposed, it was unlikely to be involved in building the new terminal.
"We may not be anything more than a customer," he said.
KiwiRail is not involved in the Government's study of the potential ferry terminal in Clifford Bay.
If the Government decided a new terminal was a good idea, it would decide whether the project would proceed through the resource consent process or through the Environment Protection Authority, Mr Quinn said.
- The Marlborough Express
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