Last week was a big week, not only for me, but for all those likely to be affected, positively or adversely, by the possible port shift to Clifford Bay.
Meetings were held in Picton, Blenheim and Havelock and people were understandably focused on the possible negative impacts such a move would have on their towns and businesses.
One very important point has been sidelined in the debate so far, the opportunity for Picton, Blenheim and Havelock to grow as destinations in their own right.
A good point was made by one of the respondents in Sarah O'Bryan's initial report, Clifford Bay Ferry Terminal Relocation - effects on Picton business and community.
That respondent said "We will become a destination; the mentality would change looking more into the future. It would make promoters consider more options as a destination . . ."
Sarah O'Bryan has my respect for making such an important contribution to the Clifford Bay debate, and I say this in the knowledge that while there are some good solid ‘pros' for the shift in the report, the survey responses are largely negative.
As MP for this electorate, I have the responsibility for, and every intention to, ensure that Picton and the wider Marlborough region are uppermost in the Government's mind as the Clifford Bay decision-making process continues. It is vital that the human impact of this move is taken into account. However, I do believe that Marlborough Sounds tourism and business opportunities will continue to be attractive whatever the outcome of the current proposal.
While there are legitimate concerns as to what Picton will look like if the ferries were to go to Clifford Bay, we need to remember that Picton is already established as a tourist destination with year round attractions including mussel and salmon farms that garner international attention from chefs and fine wine and food lovers.
The Sounds are home to a diverse range of opportunities and activities, it certainly isn't a place where there's little to do.
It's about participation - kayaking, tramping, whaling and history along with diving and other water sports.
It's also home to marine farming, forestry and working sheep and beef farms.
A new food tourism venture is also about to be launched in Picton - the Seafood Odyssea Cruise which will give visitors the opportunity to take a leisurely boat cruise through the sounds, taking in a King Salmon farm, green shell mussel and oyster farms.
Guests will learn about the various aspects of aquaculture in the Sounds then sample fresh salmon, mussels and oysters served with Marlborough sauvignon blanc.
There's a great deal already established in the area and more to come. Who's to say a new tourist-based operator wouldn't start a Cook Strait ferry service catering solely to the needs of the travelling public? Yet we remain with the big unknown, what the actual outcome will be if Clifford Bay goes ahead.
No-one has a crystal ball but I can relate to and understand the fear of change that is prevalent in some sectors of our communities. I will be making a strong case; ensuring people's livelihoods are factored into the Clifford Bay proposal. I am listening, and I am debating with the decision-makers in Wellington.
- The Marlborough Express