Public private partnership mooted for Clifford Bay terminal

Alistair Sowman

Marlborough mayor Alistair Sowman has not ruled out a public-private partnership to fund a new ferry terminal at Clifford Bay.

And he expected it could be something Port Marlborough would be interested in.

Mr Sowman told NBR ONLINE Picton is struggling with the uncertainty around its terminal.

“Investment in Picton has stalled. It’s very hard at the moment to attract and retain new business and the uncertainty has stalled Port Marlborough’s expansion plans.”

He says he wanted something better from transport minister Gerry Brownlee in the off-again, on-again Cliford Bay ferry plan announced yesterday.

What Mr Brownlee delivered was  a "specialist project group" made up of officials from his ministry, Treasury and NZ Transport Agency to look at the viability of a terminal at Clifford Bay.

After more than 10 years of alternative port debate Mr Sowman was expecting a decision by the end of the year.

Instead, Mr Brownlee says the project group is likely to report back by the end of next April.

New Zealand-based freight company Mainfreight could stand to benefit the most from a shorter travel time between Wellington and Christchurch.

In a written statement to NBR ONLINE, managing director Don Braid says he does not see the necessity of further investigation.

“There have been a number of studies done over the years for Clifford Bay, most point to the benefits that the development will provide. Mr Brownlee needs to make a decision, yes or no and then how.”

Mr Braid has not ruled out the idea of Mainfreight getting involved in the ownership, and says a public private partnership “may well be the answer.”

KiwiRail, which owns the Interisander ferry, has welcomed the project group. But ceo Jim Quinn says any future development of a new terminal could be years down the track, even if it does get approval.

“The important thing from Interislander’s point of view is that a decision is made sooner rather than later so that we can plan for the future.”

He says any decision on Clifford Bay would help the company plan its fleet and manage the planned growth in freight over coming years.

But Picton business group chair Graham Gosling is not sure the business proposal for the terminal, estimated to cost $422 million, stacks up.

He agrees with Mr Sowman about the effect on business.

“They’re actually playing with Picton and it affects the markets – it affects the retail values of properties because there’s so much uncertainty."

Mr Gosling wants prime minister and tourism minister John Key to visit Picton to see how dependent the town is on tourism.

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