|Clifford Bay ferry move a ‘big call’ – NZ PM|
|Wednesday, 14 March 2012 18:00|
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New Zealand’s government is investigating the feasibility and economic impact of shifting the South Island interisland ferry port from Picton to Clifford Bay.
During a recent visit to Blenheim, Prime Minister John Key described the proposal as a “big call”. He told a Chamber of Commerce meeting of about 250 people that former transport minister Steven Joyce was of the view that the government should take a look at it and make a decision either way.
Moving the port from Picton to Clifford Bay has been a possibility for decades. Proponents say it would reduce road travel time to Christchurch and reduce fuel use even more, as it eliminates the hilly part of the journey at Seddon. Opponents say the site is too exposed to be useful and there would be environmental risks. Picton businesses have also expressed concern about what impact the move would have on them.
The transport ministry is expected to report the findings of the NZ$650,000 study by the end of March.
“I haven’t seen the report. I have heard the arguments that say restrictions over time mean that Interislander can’t make the number of trips it needs to do. The counter argument to that is there is a huge amount invested in the current port,”
Key. “It’s a big call, a pretty big call. But let’s have a look ... It’s worth having a discussion.”
KiwiRail’s Interislander would be a potential cornerstone operator in the new port if a private sector party developed it, Interislander general manager Thomas Davis says. Interislander would be interested to see the outcome of the study and, as a potential cornerstone operator, to discuss Clifford Bay’s future.
“There are some realities we can’t avoid. Over time, we will need to replace existing ships and that will require investment in new port infrastructure at Picton,” added Davis. “Just as importantly, future ships will need to travel at slower ship speeds through Tory Channel to reduce the impact of wake on the shoreline. The result would be that Interislander would only be able to complete four return trips a day compared with the six we currently achieve. That would have an obvious impact on the economics of our business.”
Davis says operating from a Clifford Bay facility would provide the opportunity for six trips a day as well as the road and rail cost savings that can be achieved from shorter sailing times and the reduced distance to travel to Christchurch.
The CEO of coastal operator Pacifica, Steve Chapman, disagrees with the proposal and says that spending $650,000 was “a blatant waste of taxpayers’ money”. Chapman said far more productive ways could be found to improve the efficiency of inter-island freight movements than to revisit the proposed Clifford Bay link. He believes economic efficiency and supply chain productivity would not be improved by duplicating transport infrastructure such as ports, cranes, storage and freight handling equipment.
“Taxpayers’ money frittered away on greenfield studies for a new ferry terminal would be better spent on facilitating investment in New Zealand’s coastal shipping capabilities,” said Chapman. “If the Government wants to get serious about reducing freight transport costs, protecting the environment and lifting economic performance, it should redirect its attention to facilitating coastal shipping capacity.”
Pacifica is the only coastal shipping firm left in New Zealand, and operates two container-capable ships which travel between Auckland, Tauranga, Lyttleton, Nelson, New Plymouth and Onehunga ports.
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