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Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman says any future decision on moving the inter-island port to Clifford Bay will be based on the national economic benefit of such a move.
Last week, Kaikoura MP Colin King was reported as saying that environmental limitations would restrict the future use of the ferries in the Marlborough Sounds. He suggested that ferry operators would face difficulties getting renewals for current resource consents which expire in 2015 and that it was “prudent for the government to have an alternative”.
Mr Sowman says there is no reason to suggest the existing resource consents are under threat or that conditions are likely to be changed significantly.
He says the continued improvement to ship designs have minimised the impact of the ships’ wakes and the Sounds shoreline is not being subject to the wave damage caused by the previous fast ferries which crossed Cook Strait.
“There is no talk of ferries being required to reduce speed and drop a crossing from their timetable so, really, this is not a factor in the Clifford Bay debate. In fact it would be barking up the wrong tree completely to try and suggest that environmental barriers justified a decision to go to Clifford Bay.”
Mr Sowman says the future of Clifford Bay will be a national government decision and it will be the government’s responsibility to ensure that all economic factors are taken into account, including the direct effect on the Marlborough economy of any move.
However, Mr Sowman said that it was widely understood that the final decision would be determined by the overall national benefit of moving the terminal further south.
“There are a number of factors to be considered including the economic benefit of faster north-south travel times for rail and trucking freight measured against the cost of building and maintaining a terminal off Marlborough’s eastern coastline rather than at the head of the Sounds,” he said.
If projections suggest bigger volumes of freight necessitating larger ships, then the size and scale of the breakwater which that would require at Clifford Bay would, no doubt, also be a factor to be taken into account, he said.
“One would also like to believe that if the Government was to strip the Picton economy of a key component like the ferries then it also would face up to the need to provide some support for that local economy to re-adjust.”
However, Mr Sowman said the government would be making the call based on the big economic picture.
“But, let me state very clearly, that neither the District Council nor Port Marlborough is aware of any barriers to the ferries remaining at Picton.”