Ferry terminal plan for Clifford Bay
Picton will survive if it loses its ferry terminal, Prime Minister John Key says.
Key was speaking in Dunedin today after it was announced that a "strong" business case had been made to the Cabinet to move the inter-island ferry terminal to Clifford Bay, south of Blenheim.
Constructing a new terminal away from Picton would cost about $422 million but would cut the journey time from Wellington to Christchurch by up to 110 minutes and reduce fuel costs.
If the project is given the green light in April next year, the port could be fully operational by 2020.
Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee said the project had the potential to "rewrite the transport map for the country" and could offer advantages to Picton.
"There are opportunities for a town like Picton, where much of the foreshore is taken up by the terminal,'' he said.
''Picton has the potential to be another Queenstown because of its intrinsic beauty."
Key has downplayed concerns that the loss of the ferry terminal would hit Picton businesses.
''We're not convinced it would have a massive impact on Picton,'' he said.
''Not a lot of activity is really driven off the boats. People are coming in and tend to get off them and go fairly quickly."
Key said any move was "a big issue", with the construction of a new port at Clifford Bay likely to cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
However, this had to be balanced with the challenging environment in the Marlborough Sounds, where ships had to travel at reduced speeds.
He said it was timely to investigate an alternative port for the South Island after the massive reconstruction of Christchurch.
Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said the move could offer an "enormous opportunity" to better serve North Island markets and allow Picton to become "a much more high-quality tourism destination".
BUSINESS CASE WILL BE RIGOROUSLY TESTED
Brownlee said in Christchurch today that the assumptions in the business case made for moving the Picton ferry terminal to Clifford Bay would be ''rigorously tested'' and many complex issues would be worked through before a decision was made.
However, details of the business case have not been revealed. Brownlee said much of the information was commercially sensitive.
A specialist project team assembled by the Transport Ministry, the Treasury and the NZ Transport Agency would investigate the possible new terminal.
The Government was looking at the road and rail link between the North and South Islands from a national transport perspective and was interested in the "long-term advantages that could be realised" from having the terminal at Clifford Bay rather than Picton.
Brownlee said today's news had been discussed with the Marlborough District Council, Port Marlborough, Strait Shipping, CentrePort and KiwiRail's Interislander.
"They understand that this decision could potentially rewrite the transport map for the country and that the Government is prepared to take the time required to make the right decision," he said.
The specialist project team will report back to the Government by April next year.
An extra $28m to expand trades training for the Christchurch rebuild was also announced at today's press conference at the Mt Pleasant Yacht Club.
Skills Minister Steven Joyce said the money would help train the "thousands" of people needed for the rebuild.
The money will be spent under the Skills for Canterbury initiative.