OPINION: Buy your sections now in Cliffordville, the Government's new lifestyle development south of Seddon. Marlborough is abuzz with scant news of the $422 million town, especially its spectacular water feature, a fully working ferry terminal.
"I'm abuzz," said a Government minister who cannot be named because of a confidentiality agreement. "The entire project is cost-neutral, at least to our generation. And the freight firms I speak to are very enthusiastic."
What about the catastrophic effect on Picton's economy, Out Of My Head (OOMH) inquired politely?
"Opportunity," said the minister. "Opportunity - Picton could become the new Queenstown."
Critics are puzzled by supposed fiscal gains from shifting the terminal, since the Picton port company makes just $7 million a year from ferry operations.
"The freight firms I speak to are most persuasive," said Minister X. "I can't divulge figures, because they are top secret, but the truckers' share price will do very nicely, enriching Mum and Dad investors nationwide. Besides, that $422 million is not real money. It's borrowed money - we'll never have to pay it back. Or we might do a public-private partnership."
But, OOMH persisted, Picton locals fear that the loss of 1.2 million visitors a year will create a ghost town.
"Nonsense," said the minister. "Look, the truth is, they've been leaning on the crutch of ferry income for generations. It's all about breaking the cycle of dependency."
Minister X urged Marlburians to take a deep breath and put their heads between their knees over the proposal. The Government might consider providing free paper bags to huff into.
Residents would be fully consulted once the Government had made up its mind, he said.
Surely a project of such major implications warrants a local say?
"They had their say at the last election," X grinned. "Besides, we cannot release any information because of a confidentiality agreement, and I think it would be irresponsible of us to let ill-informed people skew the debate."
Oldtimers who remember the vomitous Wellington-Lyttelton ferries say the new route will be a nightmare in rolling northerly swells. Why scrap a sheltered cruising route in the Marlborough Sounds that entrances thousands of tourists?
"Overrated," said X. "The trucking firms I've spoken to say it's a big yawn after the 100th trip."
Endangered hector's dolphins will also be at risk from the ferry traffic. "Oh, look, we're all sick of the carping from those dolphins," the minister snapped. "They've been given every chance to lift themselves off the endangered list, and frankly, when you look at the stats, their children are likely to be on the list, too. It's about breaking the cycle of dependency."
Despite awaiting feasibility study results in July, the Government has already mapped out the new settlement of Cliffordville, which will be serviced by a network of four-lane motorways.
"It's a companion project to our Roads of National Significance, or Rons. We're calling it More Oldschool Roads of National Significance - our public relations team are still working on the acronym."
Cliffordville is planned as a gated community, with entry by swiping a gold credit card. Covenants will ensure houses are three times as big as they need to be, pricing out undesirables.
The model town would not neglect its social obligations, said X. The elderly, or GSUs (Geriatric Stock Units), will be housed in high-rise rest homes and given a regimented five minutes of TLC daily, "whether they need it or not", by the skeleton crew of Filipina staff.
Workers will be bussed in each day from Picton, taking advantage of low-priced accommodation.
Do Kiwis give a damn any more about the welfare of their elderly, OOMH opined?
"Of course they give a damn. Many of them have shares in aged care companies. Thousands of Mums and Dads keep the stockmarket website on their Favourites menu."
Minister X enthused again that "Picton could become another Queenstown - crammed with foreigners and heaps of bars where people can drown their sorrows. It's also close to the water - uncanny".
Yes, but Blenheim, and even Nelson, will feel the economic pain when campervans disembark at Cliffordville and turn left for Christchurch, OOMH asserted.
"So you're against the rebirth of plucky Christchurch?" said X.
No, of course not, OOMH flustered.
"Glad to hear it. Do you know, I believe Blenheim could become the new Queenstown."
Isn't that spot already taken?
"You can never have too many Queenstowns," the Minister sniffed.
PS: An update on Yuki the little poochon. She has joined my ex, Kay, in a new home in Riverton. Kay relocated from Auckland. The climate may be cooler, but the warmth of the people more than compensates, she reports.
I wrote about Yuki's habit of screaming like a banshee if left outside a shop. Well, she's a changed dog. The other night Kay went in to get blue cod and chips (another plus), leaving Yuki in the car. Yuki hopped into the driver's seat, put her front paws on the steering wheel and accidentally discovered the horn - which she blasted repeatedly until Kay came scurrying back.
PPS: Marlborough's mayor is hoping meetings early this year will shed light on why the Government is seriously considering a $422 million ferry terminal at Clifford Bay, which will knock the Picton economy.