Picton's future in residents' hands

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 08:41 02/07/2014
Picton
DEREK FLYNN/FAIRFAX NZ

UNCERTAINTY REMOVED: The Government’s decision to keep the Cook Strait ferries in Picton has given the town more certainty.

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Picton on the brink of something big

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The time is right for Picton people to think hard about what they want to improve their town and to work together to get council and government backing for it.

Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman said yesterday the port town had the opportunity to define its own future so long as the town could unite behind some clear ideas.

The Government's decision to keep the Cook Strait ferries in Picton had given Picton certainty, and people in the town had had six months to think about what that might mean.

"I know there have been lots of discussions occurring, lots of talk about how the town might move forwards after the very difficult period of uncertainty caused by all the talk of taking away the ferries," he said.

"I know there are good ideas out there and I think it's a very good sign that people are thinking about this."

The next step would be to crystallise these ideas and bring them into the public arena.

Sowman said, from the various discussions he'd been invited to, he expected more concrete proposals to be put forward in the next month or two. "Obviously any big decisions are going to require some council funding and probably central government funding. But first we have to define, and refine, the town's plans."

Those ideas included supporting the Link Pathway, a walking and cycling track between Picton and Havelock which had the potential to draw thousands of visitors the way the Otago Rail Trail did, and improving the linkage between London Quay and the foreshore, including lowering the stone wall along London Quay and removing car parks so that visitors sitting in cafes and other shops along that stretch had an uninterrupted view of the sea.

It was possible that roading could be changed so that cars and light vehicles off the ferries could be directed up Auckland St before turning into State Highway 1, rather than up Dublin St, which would bring the more than a million ferry users closer to Picton's town centre, making it more accessible for people to stop and shop before heading south.

Port Marlborough this week applied for resource consent to build new freight marshalling yards for Strait Shipping alongside its Bluebridge ferry check-in area, the first part of what could be a $100 million over the next 10 years of the whole port infrastructure.

Sowman said the port plans were already in the public arena and that was "exciting stuff" for the town.

The council had committed to fund the Link Pathway for four years, and councillors had really caught on to the potential that this pathway presented, he said.

"It could be a real tourist magnet that aligns very nicely with the Queen Charlotte Track as well as a rather special addition to Picton's recreational opportunities."

The town needed a strong theme to define itself and capture the attention of visitors if it was going to grow as a tourist town, Sowman said, and the work being done by the National Whale Centre and Picton's museum to build on the town's whaling history fitted that bill.

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The mood in Picton had really shifted since a year ago when there was so much trepidation about the future of the ferries, Sowman said.

The challenge for the town now was for all those with a stake in Picton's future to realise that, in a small town, all resource and energy had to be focused in the same direction.

"If we can all work together we can achieve marvellous things for Picton, if everyone is divided any venture is more likely to fail and we can't afford to let that happen."

- The Marlborough Express

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