TDC's Whanganui - Motueka ferry feasibility stalls after peer review
A new study on the viability of a ferry between Motueka and Whanganui has found big gaps in its initial feasibility study.
Planning consultants Murray King and Francis Small Consultancy, and Ian Wallis Associates reviewed the ferry's feasibility study and found it lacked the detail needed to proceed to the next stage of planning. The report, commissioned by Whanganui's Port Revitalisation Team, said there were large holes in the proposal from an economic, logistic and transportation perspective .
"A significant number of gaps need to be filled before a developer would proceed, and some of them need filling before the funders are likely to assist with the next stage, so there there can be more certainty with the feasibility of the project."
The 108-point review released this week concluded that "there may be a sufficient market available to this ferry route, at rates that make it profitable, but the case is not sufficiently made out in this report".
In May a report was presented to the Whanganui District Council on behalf of operators Midwest Ferries regarding a potential ferry service from Whanganui to Motueka.
That study indicated that a single-ferry service would be viable from a technical and commercial perspective. The operators hoped to start work on the infrastructure needed in 2020 and begin sailings in 2021 subject to getting the necessary consents and financial backing.
The obtaining of consents in relation to aspects like dredging at both Whanganui and Motueka, as well as the implications of the legal personal status of the Whanganui River, were also identified as issues to refine.
It also highlighted a number of areas within the original report that were "parked" for future study, which included ship type, potential investors, impact on State Highway 4 and assumptions about the future of the existing ferry services.
The report acknowledged the feasibility report was a precursor to a larger business case, the peer review suggested the report would be better "characterised as a pre-feasibility report".
In light of the findings the Tasman District Council has decided to postpone discussing the commissioning of a study looking at the feasibility of Port Motueka being used. It had planned to discuss it at a full council meeting on June 22.
Communications manager Chris Choat said the Whanganui District Counci had asked it to wait while discussions took place with the peer reviewers.
"The consultants are likely to re-enage with us over the next four to six weeks and assuming that occurs there will be a report to the July 27 council meeting," Choat said.
Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall said because the Midwest Ferries feasibility report did not address technical and environment matters in enough detail, its ferry proposal won't be included in a Port Revitalisation business case soon to be presented to the Government.
"However, this does not prevent a ferry service from operating in the future, if it meets the requirements to operate within the particular physical make up of our river port, is economically viable and practically feasible.
"We have commissioned these reports to help the Council and the community to understand the feasibility and impacts of a potential service for a large ship operation from the Whanganui Port."
Speaking to The Wanganui Chronicle, Midwest project director Nik Zangouropoulos, who co-authored the original feasibility study, said he had "no major objections" to the peer review.
He said the original feasibility study was constrained by time and was only intended to get the proposal to the stage where a detailed business case could be commissioned.