Team to flesh out port plan

19:32, Dec 18 2012

A commercial director should be appointed shortly to head a specialist team developing the proposal to move the interisland port from Picton to Clifford Bay, south of Seddon, a Ministry of Transport spokesman said yesterday.

A "timeline of milestones" in the Clifford Bay proposal on the ministry's website says the Government intends to call for expressions of interest for financing, building and operating the Clifford Bay ferry port in early 2014.

Before then, the project team would consult key stakeholders on the "commercial parameters" of the project during the end of this year and early next year.

The team was expected to report to Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee by mid to late 2013, and it would be mid-2015 when the Government would negotiate with a preferred partner to build the new port.

Construction of the terminal is scheduled to start in 2016 if approved, and operations would start in 2020.

Mr Brownlee said in November the Government would appoint a specialist project team to do more work on the "strong" business case for moving the interisland port from Picton to Clifford Bay.

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Cabinet ministers believed the business case was strong enough to justify further testing the viability of the $422 million project, he said.

The specialist project team of officials from the Ministry of Transport, Treasury and the NZ Transport Agency, along with private- sector experts, would report to him by May next year, Mr Brownlee said.

"I expect that assumptions in the business case will be rigorously tested with key stakeholders."

Ministry of Transport spokesman Brendan Crocker said the appointment of a project director for the Clifford Bay project was "reasonably close".

The rest of the specialist team would be appointed after that person was put in place.

The timeline was published after the ministry got "the sense that what we were doing wasn't perhaps as well understood as it could be, in terms of possible pace," he said.

"It's putting what we were doing in a timeline perspective. It paints a picture from the public point of view and gives an indication of what's happened and what could happen in the future, depending on what comes out of the further stages."

Mr Crocker said it was possible some information gathered by the ministry in its earlier investigation of the Clifford Bay proposal could be released once the specialist team was appointed.

The commercial director would "take some expert advice" and then determine that, he said.

The Marlborough Express