The light at the end of the tunnel does not appear to be getting any brighter in terms of getting cruise ships into Kaikoura more regularly.
Three years since cruise ships began to make an appearance in Kaikoura during the summer season, figures are still far lower than anyone would like.
Only eight small vessels are due in this summer, compared with a total of 74 which will dock in Akaroa.
After the 2011 earthquake, Lyttelton's port was unsuitable for cruise passengers, and initially Kaikoura was being considered by some of the larger companies.
The only issue anticipated at that time was the entry to the new wharf, on the north side.
South Bay was not thought to be a problem and it was hoped cruises would start using Kaikoura more regularly, perhaps even that summer.
That was until one of the big players, Carnival Cruise, could not use depth sounding data supplied by Whale Watch Kaikoura because it was not deemed official.
This ruled out South Bay too and Carnival Cruise chose to sail on by and stop at Akaroa instead that season.
Further work was done to try to remedy the situation, including another depth survey earlier this year, and it was again anticipated cruise ships would be accommodated by the end of the year.
However it is understood that a 90cm rock, near the channel entrance, was identified from the most recent sounding. Kaikoura Information Tourism Incorporated and Kaikoura District Council will now need to discuss the latest finding with the ECan harbourmaster to clarify its location and determine a course of action.
Mayor Winston Gray said film footage would likely be required to determine exactly what could be done and how much it would cost.
The boost for the region in securing the bigger cruise ships would be huge, with as many as 2000 passengers on board.
The passenger numbers on the cruise ships currently visiting Kaikoura range from fewer than 100 to 450 at the most.
- © Fairfax NZ News