Mayor explains secrecy

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 13:18 05/02/2013

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Clifford Bay

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A confidentiality agreement with the Government does not constrain the Marlborough District Council from advocating on behalf of the community, Mayor Alistair Sowman said yesterday.

In an open letter circulated to media yesterday, Mr Sowman said some concern had been expressed about the confidentiality agreement that covered council staff involved in providing information for the Ministry of Transport's preliminary report on shifting the inter-island port from Picton to Clifford Bay, south of Seddon.

The ministry has signed confidentiality agreements with the council, KiwiRail and Strait Shipping before holding early discussions. It is seeking one with Port of Marlborough as well.

Mr Sowman said that, "as was standard practice", a confidentiality agreement governed those supplying information to a financial feasibility report.

Council staff dealt regularly with commercially sensitive information and were familiar with confidentiality requirements, he said.

"This agreement covers any commercially sensitive information provided by the ferry and port operators that may emerge in the course of the ministry's research.

"It protects the rights of the private businesses which use the port.

"But it does not constrain the council from advocating on behalf of the community.

"Nothing that has been agreed by council will restrict councillors from fulfilling their roles as advocate for the Marlborough community. My priority, should this project go ahead, will be to ensure that there is proper consideration given to all impacts and that an appropriate support package is delivered to Marlborough."

Mr Sowman said the wider economic impact of such a decision would not happen until, and if, the Government decided to move to the next stage and seek resource consents.

"That will be the time when the broader economic and social issues of any such move will be assessed. That's the point when the Government will give us opportunity as a community to enter into any debate about this proposal. Until then, we can only gather our own resources and ensure we are well prepared to contribute good quality data."

He said government officials were looking at things like the capital cost of the building and the operational cost of Clifford Bay, and the ability of port users to pay.

The future need to upgrade the port of Picton should the ferries remain was part of that calculation.

"They're not looking at the wider economic impact of such a decision."

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- The Marlborough Express

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