Action needed on poor ferry service

Last updated 13:00 20/01/2014

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OPINION: As one astute wit has suggested, maybe the replacement ferry for the Aratere should be called the "Interimislander".

That's not a bad suggestion. Mind you, it then begs the question how the management of the Interislander ferry service should be described.

The latest debacle with the ferry service would be funny if it wasn't so disruptive to those passengers and businesses who are relying on them to get between Picton and Wellington.

For anyone who's missed it, the replacement for the Aratere, the chartered Swedish ferry Stena Alegra, broke down in Wellington Harbour on Friday in its first week of service. The picture of the Stena alongside the Aratere, which lost one of its propellers in Cook Strait in November, in Wellington summed up the ferry company's fortunes. Not only were the customers on board unable to get to Picton, but the 148 passengers booked on the return sailing also missed out.

Now the farce has become political with both Labour and NZ First raising questions about the ferry company's management. NZ First Leader Winston Peters says Interislander owner KiwiRail has an uncanny knack of picking lemons. This is in particular reference to the Aratere which was dubbed "El Lemon" by its crew within a year of its delivery in 1998. Aratere has been a particular basket case with several incidents since its delivery, including power failures and ramming a trawler. On a day in November just over two years ago, all three interislander ferries were out of action at once. And it's not as if the Stena Alegra is free of controversy - in October it ran aground off Sweden in a storm.

Destination Marlborough general manager Tracy Johnston describes the latest incident as incredibly unfortunate. She also quite rightly points out that there is genuine concern about the reputation of travelling the Cook Strait by ferry. Quite honestly, why would you at the moment unless you had no other choice. It's not as if it's a very cheap option for passengers.

Is Interislander management unlucky in its choice of ferries and replacements, or is it down to poor decision making. Whatever the reason, the credibility of the company is at an all-time low and something needs to change.

Thanks, firefighters A shout out to all the rural firefighters who tackled several fires on Friday. As Waimea's principal fire officer, Ian Reade, said nobody was injured, mainly due to the fact that his team got to each of them fast enough to prevent any injuries or damage to properties.

He likened it to Australian conditions, with the high winds, high temperatures and low humidity. It is times like these that you appreciate the work and commitment of the volunteer firefighters.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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