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Ferry proposal put to Tasman District Council

May 12th, 2017

Port Motueka could undergo a massive transformation if a proposed $100 million Whanganui-Motueka ferry service gets the go-ahead, according to an article on the Stuff website.

The proposal was presented formally to the Tasman District Council yesterday, followed by a request for TDC to assist with some funding - to match that of the Whanganui District Council - during "the establishment stage", to the tune of perhaps $70,000 initially.

The Port Motueka end of the project would involve a 7-metre deep channel dredged and maintained through the Motueka Sandspit, and a Y-shaped turning area to allow ferries to reverse and dock. Reclamation of an adjacent area for parking and marshalling is also proposed.

Port Nelson has been rejected outright as the southern service terminal because it has no space available for the berthage and parking areas, and will not develop any in future.

Stuff reported that advocates for the Midwest Ferries project presented results of a feasibility study to the council and asked for funds to help develop a detailed business case. They requested TDC form a joint taskforce with Whanganui District Council.

Co-author of the feasibility study Nik Zangouropoulus said the proposal to offer a daily return freight trip over the 115-nautical mile route, was commercially viable.

"One vessel and only the freight market initially – that's the best scenario at this stage," he said. A second ferry for passengers would come later.

He said the initial one-ferry operation was expected to provide about 120 jobs, with about one-third estimated at the Motueka end.

Though they were seeking some local government funding and would also request a contribution from central government during the establishment phase, once that passed "there's to be no claim on the public purse – it's to be privately funded".

Richmond ward Cr Dana Wensley, who has strong Motueka roots, asked about the environmental feasibility of the proposal. The Stuff article reported as follows:

"The Motueka Sandspit is internationally important for the godwit. The Moutere Inlet is the feeding ground for the godwit so I guess I feel personally a sense of unease with you coming to council seeking funding when you haven't, to my perspective, put much effort into the environmental impact.

"I think that is something you will need to put a lot more effort into to gain support from me personally and to get it off the ground."

Responding, the ferry project team recognised it was "weak on environmental assessment, it's one of the first two cabs off the rank for the next stage".

Mr Zangouropoulos said the full impact on the environment could not be assessed until a detailed engineering design was complete, due in the first half of 2018.

Comment by Malcolm Garrett:
[Posted 12 May 2017]

I just hope the godwits can cope with any changes! In general, I approve the idea. Change is not always for the worse. Let's hope we can make it work for natural world as well as commerce.

Comment by Fiona Gilliver:
[Posted 12 May 2017]

Good idea in theory. As well as the obvious marine environmental concerns, what thought has been given to road transport links? The Motueka Valley Road is unsuitable for high volumes of truck traffic. The Motueka River bridge upgrade and a bypass would definitely be needed if there were any more tourist traffic.

Comment by Beth Bryant:
[Posted 13 May 2017]

Motueka Sandspit is of international importance for resident and/or migratory shorebirds. The surrounding estuaries are important bird feeding areas.

I am unsure how trucks coming to Motueka would improve Motueka. Likely the drivers will eat and sleep on the ferry and drive straight on. Seems to me that all we would get would be more heavy traffic on roads out of town and more rates to pay for their upkeep. Unlike Whanganui we already have more tourists than we can cope with now.

(This project that is more useful to Whanganui than it is to Motueka. I hope our rates don't get used for a feasibility study for this. Better to put the money towards a feasibility study for the new library!)

Comment by Paul Mosley:
[Posted 14 May 2017]

It's obvious that the principal beneficiary of the proposed Wanganui-Motueka ferry would be the road transport industry, which would be able to improve utilization of vehicles and drivers, and avoid calling on drivers to put in illegal hours of work, as recent newspaper reports indicate happens at present. We are assured that the proposal is viable, but many aspects, particularly on the cost side of the equation, simply haven't been considered.

As well as the massive environmental effects on Motueka Sandspit, the harbour entrance channel, and the Moutere Inlet, there seems to have been no thought given to other environmental effects such as the impacts of heavy goods vehicle traffic on Motueka Valley Highway and on residents of settlements such as Brightwater. More noise, congestion, accidents, delays, inconvenience … oh, great! Improved profitability of the transport industry will be achieved at significant cost to the environment and society at large. Presumably, too, the public purse will be called upon to fund improvements to the roads between Motueka and Murchison, so that the transport industry can cut its costs - a further effective transfer of wealth from public to private hands.

The proponents don't seem to be aware that the local coastline is very dynamic, with large quantities of sand moving south from the Motueka River mouth. To maintain a 7 m deep navigation channel will be an expensive business. And what of the safety issues relating to running a large ferry up and down the narrow channel past Talleys, where the current flows at around 5 knots at mid-tide. The ferry master's skills will be tested to the limit, especially when the southwesterly blows up and the ferry has to turn and reverse into its berth.

Speaking of safety, the marina clubs have about 700 members; how do recreational boaters get along with a ferry doing 10 knots past Talleys, I wonder? And we haven't even started to think about the possible impacts of car and campervan traffic, if the suggested second (passenger) ferry actually is introduced.

But to see what the likely effects (benefits isn't the correct word) on Motueka would be, take a look at Picton, half an hour after the Interislander has unloaded - everybody's gone, on their way to their destination, just like the trucks. People will stay overnight in Motueka because of its own attractions, not because there's a ferry terminal here.

Incidentally, what will be the impact on Picton of diverting business from that port, and will Port Marlborough cheer on the competition, or seek to impede it, or more probably match or beat it? Presumably there would be redundancies among some of the Picton port staff, who may relocate or simply commute to Motueka. How does that actually create jobs, as claimed?

And what of the reconstructed and improved SH1 and rail link, and the proposals for Wellington-Christchurch ferry services? What effects will they have on the purported viability of the Wanganui ferry? There's certainly a lot of questions to ask about this proposal, to be answered by the proponents in a business case that's a lot better thought out than the feasibility study evidently has been.

But I strongly oppose the suggestion that Tasman District ratepayers should provide a $70,000 grant for that purpose; the road transport industry as the principal beneficiary should be doing so, and we've got much better things to spend our rates on.

Comment by Paul Morgan:
[Posted 17 May 2017]

The business concept has potential for Motueka and Whanganui but significant studies economically, infrastructure, environmental yet to be started. The big question is the long term port facilities for our region and exporters. Port Nelson say they can meet our needs for forseable future but if Mearsk and other Global shipping companies determine fewer and larger ships we may only have coastal shipping service unless we build a deep water port of Horoirangi. $100m would be good start for dual solution?!! Somewhere in Tasman Bay.

Comment by Shirley Frater:
[Posted 21 May 2017]

We have head about the wonders of a new ferry service. The academics can have screeds of words to try and convince how successful and the benefits the project would be.
All words,words and figures What about common sense taking priority ?

the history of failure with the groin on the sandspit that was going to be a miracle for boats ,be a lesson on how to have a sink hole for money.
Common sense for the environment and those creatures who rely on the estuary?
Common sense for making a good decision against a project that's an environmental threat to the values many Motuekans hold on the estuary and sand spit.
Common sense -that Tasman District Council will not be investing rate funds in this academic venture.
Common sense - knowledge that tides and shifting sands are an expensive threat.

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