Gerry Brownlee | Canterbury Earthquake Recovery
The Government wants to further test the viability of a ferry terminal at Clifford Bay in Marlborough, Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee has announced.
"Cabinet believes the business case we've been presented is strong enough to justify further testing the viability of this major change to New Zealand's transport infrastructure," Mr Brownlee says.
"I have asked the Ministry of Transport, along with the Treasury and the NZ Transport Agency to assemble a specialist project team to undertake this work.
"This group of officials and private sector experts will continue working through the complexities that are part and parcel of the business case and report back to the Government by the end of April next year.
"I expect that assumptions in the business case will be rigorously tested with key stakeholders."
The Government is looking at the road and rail link between the North and South Islands from a national transport perspective and is interested in the long-term advantages that could be realised from having the ferry terminal at Clifford Bay rather than Picton.
Investigating a new ferry terminal at Clifford Bay is part of the Government's wider infrastructure programme, which is set out in the Building Infrastructure progress report released today.
Mr Brownlee says the business case presented to Cabinet includes an analysis of the financial, economic, operational, and commercial viability of a ferry terminal at Clifford Bay versus the status quo.
"Much of the information in the business case is commercially sensitive and will affect ongoing discussions.
"I acknowledge the impact this process is having on a number of businesses in Marlborough but a lot of complex issues need to be worked through before a decision is made.
"I have discussed today's news with some key stakeholders, including the Marlborough District Council, Port Marlborough, Strait Shipping, CentrePort, and KiwiRail's Interislander to inform them of our decision to proceed to the next stage.
"They understand that this decision could potentially rewrite the transport map for the country, and that the Government is prepared to take the time required to make the right decision for New Zealand."
A move to Clifford Bay could facilitate the use of larger cross-strait ships; reduce the journey time between Wellington and Christchurch by 80 minutes by ferry/road and 110 minutes by ferry/rail.
Other potential benefits include reduced fuel costs for road and rail transportation, rail and ferry maintenance cost savings, and reduced carbon emissions. Based on current estimates developing a ferry terminal at Clifford Bay would cost around $422 million.