National benefit key to Clifford Bay - mayor
Any decision on moving the interisland port from Picton to Clifford Bay, south of Seddon, would be based on the national economic benefit of the move, Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman said yesterday.
He said there was no reason to suggest the existing resource consents were under threat or their conditions likely to be changed significantly.
Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee is considering a business case to move the port, but no decisions have been made.
Last week, Kaikoura MP Colin King was reported saying environmental limitations would restrict the future use of the ferries in the Marlborough Sounds, suggesting ferry operators would face difficulties getting renewals for current resource consents, which expire in 2015, and that it was “prudent for the Government to have an alternative”.
However, Mr Sowman said continued improvement to ship designs had minimised the impact of the ships' wakes. The Sounds shoreline was not being subject to the wave damage caused by the previous fast ferries that crossed Cook Strait.
“There is no talk of ferries being required to reduce speed and drop a crossing from their timetable so, really, this is not a factor in the Clifford Bay debate. In fact, it would be barking up the wrong tree completely to try and suggest that environmental barriers justified a decision to go to Clifford Bay.”
Mr Sowman said the future of Clifford Bay was a central government decision. It would be the Government's responsibility to ensure that all economic factors are taken into account, including the direct effect on the Marlborough economy of any move.
It was "widely understood" the final decision would be determined by the overall national benefit of moving the terminal further south, he said.
“There are a number of factors to be considered including the economic benefit of faster north-south travel times for rail and trucking freight measured against the cost of building and maintaining a terminal off Marlborough's eastern coastline rather than at the head of the Sounds.”
If projections suggest bigger volumes of freight necessitating larger ships, then the size and scale of the breakwater that would require at Clifford Bay would also be a factor.
“One would also like to believe that if the Government was to strip the Picton economy of a key component like the ferries then it also would face up to the need to provide some support for that local economy to readjust.”
However, Mr Sowman said the Government would be making the call based on the big economic picture. “But, let me state very clearly, that neither the district council nor Port Marlborough is aware of any barriers to the ferries remaining at Picton.”
- The Marlborough Express
Do you think a new ferry terminal will be built at Clifford Bay?