Four out of five businesses would go under if the ferry terminal was moved to Clifford Bay, claim Picton locals.
About 250 people met in in Picton last night to discuss the Government's proposal to move the ferry terminal from Picton to Clifford Bay, south of Seddon.
Picton gallery owners David Hosie and Barbara Speedy said about half of their customers were ferry passengers. They predicted the loss of ferries would see four out of five Picton businesses go under.
Jasmine Court Travellers Inn owner Tommy Waters of Picton said 75 per cent of his business was ferry-related.
''This is the dumbest idea I've ever seen. A lot of international guests who travel through the Marlborough Sounds to stay here say what an absolute gem it is to travel through the Sounds and that scenery. That would all disappear.''
Port Marlborough chief executive Ian McNabb said the main argument put forward for moving the port was the projected 70 per cent increase in freight during the next 20 years.
However, he did not believe that increase would eventuate and said ferries were running at only 28 per cent capacity annually.
Existing ferries were able to handle any increase and there was land available in Picton for some time yet.
''The issue is that the freight business, the passenger business and the car business across the strait is a seasonal one. Three months of the year, they are flat-stick and then it tails off.''
Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman said the proposal, granted resource consents in 1997 before being abandoned, had ''re-emerged with stronger legs''.
''We don't know what is in the minds of ministers. We do know it is causing anxiety in the minds of many in Picton.''
Others raised the issue of earthquake faultlines running through the proposed terminal site, the risks to endangered dolphins, potential effects on New Zealand's salt supply at the Dominion Salt works at Lake Grassmere, as well as the risk to shipping from the exposed site and lack of emergency services in the area.
The Government was assessing the cost-effectiveness of Clifford Bay in the first stage. The impact on Marlborough would be studied after that, said Kaikoura MP Colin King.
''As the MP for this region, it is my responsibility to make sure that Picton, Marlborough, is uppermost in the Government's mind. We have to make sure the people making the decisions are aware of the human impact.''
Further meetings are at the Marlborough Convention Centre in Blenheim at 7pm today, and at Havelock Hall at noon tomorrow.
- The Marlborough Express
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