Commercial viability first step

01:32, Jan 25 2013

Marlborough was not likely to be "particularly involved" in the work being done on the proposal to shift the interisland port to Clifford Bay till after the Government decided whether the port should move, Marlborough mayor Alistair Sowman said yesterday.

Mr Sowman and two Marlborough District Council staff met the Ministry of Transport's Clifford Bay feasibility study team commercial director Andrew Robertson and two other members of the project team yesterday morning.

After the meeting, Mr Sowman said he had a "much clearer idea" of the Government's process for the project.

The emphasis of the project was first to determine if shifting the port from Picton to Clifford Bay, south of Seddon, was financially viable from the ferry and freight operators' perspective, he said.

The ministry team would have detailed discussions with ferry operators and freight movers on that.

"We're not particularly involved in the first part of this project. Some of the team will be working with council staff on things like resource consent conditions."

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Only when the hurdle of the first stage's question about the commercial viability of the project was answered would the team then look at the regional economic impact of the potential shift, Mr Sowman said.

"The first stage, is it commercially viable?

"They need to know if it's a runner financially. They know roughly what it'll cost to built it and what level of income to make it financially viable . . . There are savings to be made, with the route distance and fuel. It's whether the savings can be made into revenue to make this project work."

He said the team would report back to the Government in the middle of the year on the project's commercial viability.

"I can understand it. We are still going on to talk with our constituents, understand their story and the financial impacts on them. We will put it in a report, which will go to this project team for their second stage looking at economic impact."

Mr Sowman said the project team were quite upfront. There was some commercial sensitivity, but the meeting was cordial and positive. The council would share information as required.

He felt more comfortable now, with an understanding of what the process was.

"The council has got to be optimistic. If it goes ahead, we have got to get the best deal for our people.

"If it doesn't go ahead, then it's the status quo."

The Marlborough Express