Mayor positive on Clifford Bay proposal

Kaikoura Mayor Winston Gray is cautiously optimistic about the proposal to move the interisland ferry port to Clifford Bay.

Mr Gray said on Friday that while he would prefer to await details of the next report, which is due in May next year, things were looking positive for Kaikoura.

"The idea has been mooted before, although this time it does look good," he said.

"One of the big positives for me is the Wellington market.

"People could leave Wellington after work and be down here while it's still daylight, in the summer. It definitely puts us closer to that market, which can only be a good thing."

While one downside could be that it will be easier for visitors to come on day-trips only, Mr Gray said the accessibility to the Wellington market would still prove beneficial.

"It will just be up to us to show them what we've got and convince them to stay on [in Kaikoura] longer."

While the immediate outlook is slightly less positive in Picton, Mr Gray forecasts that the move could end up being good all round.

"I think it could also be good for Picton eventually, and long-term could turn it into a great destination."

Moving the port to Clifford Bay would cut out the ferry route through the Marlborough Sounds to Picton, which is longer and slower because of speed restriction in the Sounds.

Larger ferries could operate from the new port, reducing travel time between Wellington and Christchurch by 80 minutes for road traffic and 110 minutes for rail traffic, as well as reducing fuel costs for road and rail transportation, rail and ferry maintenance costs and carbon emissions.

The project is estimated to cost $422 million.

The proposal appears to have the Government's backing, with Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee saying on Thursday that the Government would appoint a specialist project team to work on the business case.

Kaikoura Star