Council weighs ferry shift issues

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 15:28 11/12/2012

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Clifford Bay

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The Marlborough District Council is to host three public meetings next year as the first step in convincing the Government to help if the interisland ferry terminal is moved from Picton to Clifford Bay, south of Seddon.

Councillors are expected to approve at the full council meeting on Thursday a proposal by Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman that would help the district cope with such a significant change.

Mr Sowman said on Friday that if the Government decided to make the move to Clifford Bay, it would have widespread repercussions for Marlborough and it was important the region had time to prepare for a period of adjustment.

"But first of all we need our communities to consider all the implications so council can form a view of the big picture for the region," he said.

Three public meetings, led by a professional facilitator, will be held in Blenheim, Picton and Seddon-Ward, probably in the first week of March.

Each of the communities directly affected in Marlborough should have the opportunity to get together and discuss the impact of a significant shift in traffic flows that would result from moving the ferries to Clifford Bay, Mr Sowman said.

"There are all kinds of issues to look at including the effect on Picton tourism, possible population changes to some of our smaller communities, the reduction in tourist traffic on a large part of State Highway 1 and the future of the rail marshalling yards in Picton."

He called on the Government to release the research done earlier this year that was used to support the Government's claim the proposal to shift the port to Clifford Bay had a strong business case.

"One thing missing in the public discussion so far is the hard data about the impact on Marlborough.

"There has been a lot of talk, a lot of dire predictions and some positive anticipation - but the reality is that we don't yet know just how big the economic impact would be on this region. Nor do we know whether the overall impact would be positive or negative".

The two certainties were that Picton would need help to adapt to the new circumstances and the council would want financial assistance from the Government for that, he said. "I do not want . . . the Government to under-estimate the repercussions for Marlborough and, while there is some time before firm decisions will be made, it's vital this region does get all the assistance it would need to properly plan for and adapt to such a change."

The proposal to be considered by councillors says that if the Government did decide to build Clifford Bay, ferries would continue to operate to Picton until at least 2020.

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"This gives Picton and Marlborough time to consider options to adapt to the new circumstances. The point has been made to Government that financial assistance should be provided to the community to help with this planning and adaptation."

- The Marlborough Express

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