Sidelining cruise ships 'a mistake'

ALAN WOOD
Last updated 05:00 28/06/2014

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"Very concerned" tourism and cruise ship industry representatives will lobby Lyttelton port to reconsider its decision not to build a cruise terminal for Christchurch without outside funding.

Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism chief executive Tim Hunter says a terminal is necessary for a city recovering from the earthquakes and CCT will prepare an argument to present to the port.

The tourism industry would work on an economic case in the next three to four weeks, then present that model to the port, Christchurch City Council and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority.

He said last summer's cruise season was worth "about $19 million of actual money forked out on tourism activities and attractions" to the province.

Lyttelton Port of Christchurch chief executive Peter Davie this week said the port has put a dedicated cruise ship terminal on the backburner, saying it made no financial sense to invest in a specialist wharf that could cost in the order of $40-45m.

Davie has suggested outside investment of "tens of millions of dollars" could make the port reconsider.

Hunter said the regional tourism organisation will spend the next three or four weeks preparing material that would make it clear how important a new cruise facility would be to the Christchurch and regional economy.

Cruise New Zealand general manager Raewyn Tan said her industry lobby group would also be talking intently to LPC in the coming months.

Hunter said the amount of investment required for a terminal was not clear, so further study was required into the cost of a specialist berth to cater for 320 metre ships.

"I think the good news is at least they have provisioned for a space for a cruise wharf. It would be in the inner harbour."

Cruise NZ figures showed that cruise ships paid around $40,000 a day at wharves, so it would be hard to ask them for further capital investment, Hunter said.

The port lost most of its cruise ship business to Akaroa after the 2011 earthquakes.

Hunter said cruise visits were growing. Around 25 per cent of Australian holiday arrivals into Canterbury recently came via a cruise ship rather than aircraft.

So far Akaroa had performed "very, very well" as a destination but there was a danger visits would drop as larger cruise ships were introduced.

These new vessels did not have the ability to take passengers to shore via tenders as was done now by smaller ships visiting Akaroa.

Cruise NZ's Tan said LPC's decision was disappointing, particularly as the quake rebuild "was the great opportunity to upscale for the future".

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Generally cruise ships were getting larger and the industry was saying New Zealand needed to get infrastructure up to scratch.

Chris Allen, in charge of boat deployment and itinerary planning at cruise line Royal Caribbean, was due to visit Davie later this year for talks.

Tan said that before the 2011 earthquakes LPC had brokered a deal for a levy on cruise ship passengers to help pay for a terminal development. "That sort of conversation can still be reopened," Tan said.

Davie said the port was also building up a financial model on the case for a terminal and if there would be "appetite" for investment from groups such as the cruise industry, the tourism operators, and local and central Government.

- The Press

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