Fri, Jan 19, 2024 4:00 PM

Ferry advisory group to steer future of service


Paula Hulburt

After the shock cancellation of Cook Strait inter-island ferry service upgrades, an expert advisory group is set to keep the Government advised on ongoing plans.

Finance Minister Nicola Willis and Minister for State Owned Enterprises Paul Goldsmith have met with representatives of CentrePort, Port Marlborough, the Marlborough District Council and the Greater Wellington Regional Council as important stakeholders in the Cook Strait connection.

“The group will help to ensure that there are robust plans in place to support safe, resilient and reliable services in the coming years”, Minister Willis says.

“The establishment of the group also recognises that the Crown has interests that may be wider than KiwiRail’s commercial interests.

“In particular the Crown has an interest in ensuring that services on Cook Strait are provided efficiently in a competitive market, integrate with the wider transport system and support the economy.”

“We share a determination to ensure ongoing reliable ferry services and will be engaging with them as we develop a solution that works better for all those with an interest in the inter-island ferry service.”

The Government declined a request to contribute an additional $1.47 billion to the project to replace KiwiRail’s three ageing ferries with two, larger purpose-built ferries.

“Just 21 per cent of the $3 billion of the cost of the proposed was associated with the core project of replacing KiwiRail’s ferries,” Willis says.

“I’ve been speaking with KiwiRail’s Chair and he has assured me that all options are on the table. I look forward to working with KiwiRail in the period ahead.”

In addition to establishing a Ministerial Advisory Group, the Government has also asked the Ministry of Transport, supported by Treasury to lead an assessment of the long-term requirements for a resilient connection across Cook Strait to connect people and enable freight, supported by the Treasury.

Fellow MP Paul Goldsmith says the membership of the Ministerial Advisory Group will be finalised this month.

“In the meantime, we expect KiwiRail to continue providing a reliable and safe ferry service and to prioritise existing services appropriately”, Goldsmith says.

“At a time when there are many pressures on Government spending, we need to ensure that any replacement of the ferries is affordable.”

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