Brownlee urges ferry calm

22:30, Jan 22 2013
Ferry terminal
Artist's impression of the Clifford Bay ferry terminal

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee is urging Marlborough people to take a big breath and calm down about the prospect of the interisland port moving from Picton.

Mr Brownlee told the Marlborough Express yesterday that he did not intend to make public any of the reports the Government held on the proposal to shift the interisland port from Picton to Clifford Bay, south of Seddon, till the Government had made a decision on making the move.

Government officials have been working on the proposal since June 2011, and Mr Brownlee has several reports, including a study by Covec of the potential economic impact on Picton and a business case by Deloittes.

Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman called for the release of the Covec report last week, saying it would help the community before the council-organised public meetings on the matter next month.

Mr Brownlee said yesterday he wanted to be able to put a comprehensive information package on the table when the Government made a decision, rather than release bits of information over time.

"Releasing bits of the jigsaw would not be helpful to anyone at the present time.... If I released a report that reached a conclusion and made a decision about that, before we even made a decision about the particular project, it's putting the cart well before the horse."


It was too early to talk about government assistance to Marlborough, if the port shifted, he said.

"With all due respect to the Marlborough Express, if the discussion's going to be by way of the front page, they're not going to be occurring."

Mr Brownlee said Kaikoura MP Colin King was being "very assiduous" in making sure he did not forget any aspect of the whole process of consideration. He said he had committed to dialogue about the matter.

"We have got a lot of information gathering to have before that dialogue."

There would "certainly not" be any "sudden and unexpected" decision making, Mr Brownlee said.

He agreed there was uncertainty in Picton about the future, and that was another reason why he had to be cautious about making any indications one way or the other.

"Rumour and ill-informed comment are the biggest threat to businesses associated with Interislander activity in the Marlborough region. I think they should be calling for sound and proper consideration, which I think we are giving.

"Everybody in these circumstances is going to consider it from the perspective that most affects them. That's understandable. It's why I want a comprehensive information package on the table when we reach a decision point."

Mr Brownlee said the businesses of both Cook Strait operators were "very very crucial" to the New Zealand economy.

"Further to that, we know that if we could take time off the journey between Auckland and Christchurch, we have a very positive effect on economic productivity overall.

"The big question is how you turn the gains from a phenomenal productivity increase from a Clifford Bay port into profitability for both services, as well as for a port operator. There are a lot of questions that need to be properly answered before we look at the wider considerations people are raising," he said.


The Marlborough Express