Chance to quiz Brownlee on Clifford Bay

20:09, Jan 14 2013
Gerry Brownlee
STRONG STANCE: Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee.

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee's commitment to speak to a Marlborough Chamber of Commerce meeting in March would be one of the few opportunities to talk directly to the Government about its plans for Clifford Bay, says chamber general manager Brian Dawson.

Mr Dawson declined to comment on the Government requiring the Marlborough District Council, KiwiRail and Strait Shipping to sign confidentiality agreements before including them in discussions on whether to move the inter-island ferry port from Picton to Clifford Bay, south of Seddon.

However, he said Mr Brownlee was "locked in" to talk to the chamber on March 8, and he expected it would be a popular event.

"It's one of the few opportunities to be asking the minister directly about Clifford Bay and where the Government's at. It's a great opportunity. I encourage people to book early, it will sell out."

The chamber would also be encouraging members to attend the council-organised meetings on the Clifford Bay proposal.

"I think these meetings have to be well attended. Agencies like ourselves are encouraging members strongly to go along," Mr Dawson said.

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The meetings in Picton, Blenheim and either Seddon or Ward are to help develop a Marlborough community response to the Government's proposal to shift the port.

Picton Business Group chairman Graham Gosling said the council needed to be careful with confidentiality agreements, as it represented the community and needed to communicate with the community.

"If they sign too much in the way of confidentiality agreements, does it affect their ability to have good open discussions with ratepayers?"

It seemed "quite incredible" that there was "a lot of confidentiality going around, but no real discussion with anybody", he said.

The community really needed information so it could understand the Government's reasons for proposing the shift.

At the moment, it was hard to understand because the economics did not seem to stack up, Mr Gosling said.

Building a new port at Clifford Bay is estimated to cost at least $422 million.

The Picton Business Group was not opposed to change, Mr Gosling said, but it hadn't had "too much in the way of information that showed the country would be better off because of it".

"Marlborough has a lot at stake. Ratepayers own the port."

The Marlborough Express