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Some facts about the ferry service proposal

May 31st, 2017
[by David Armstrong]

The feasibility study undertaken by consultants on the proposed Motueka-Whanganui ferry service answers some of the common questions posed by interested parties and sceptics.

The document has been read by Motueka Online and while much of the details, tables and graphs are about projected vehicle movement numbers, revenues and costs, other sections show some of the broader thinking and assumptions behind the proposal.

This article summarises the parts of the proposal which relate to many of the issues raised by people in the recent Vision Motueka survey seeking local opinions.

The aim here is to ensure at least the basic facts of the proposal are well known, to reduce some of the misinformation and guessing that has been circulating.

Development costs
All the costs of physical developing the two terminal ports, including dredging and wharf and parking area construction and the ships, will be borne by the operating company, in exchange for free berthage at both ports.

No Tasman ratepayers will be asked to contribute to these costs, but the developers are asking for some financial assistance from councils at both ends of the service in the early investigations and studies.

Ferries and dredger
The first ferry, to be used for roll-on-roll-off freight only, will likely be 180 metres in length and draw 6m in depth. It will handle up to 70 truck movements each way each day, or close to one-quarter of all truck movements between the North and South Islands at present.

A dredging vessel will probably be leased, and operating most of the year, alternating between Whanganui and Motueka to maintain the channel depths at each end. The channel will be maintained at 7m depth.

Why not Nelson?
The initial proposals, several years ago, saw Nelson as the southern port but found that there was no capacity there and no interest from Nelson port to increase its capacity to provide such a service.

In this year's feasibility study, a Nelson option was again entertained and again found to be not viable due to totally inadequate space. Therefore, Nelson has now been ruled out as an option.

Freight and passengers
The economics of the proposal showed that in order for the ferry service to be profitable within three years, it will start out as freight only.

Running a passenger service as well will cost more due to the need for extra staff for passenger hospitality and service. The feasibility study says if such a service was also offered, it would take longer for the operation to be profitable, and it would aim for carrying 80 passengers per day each way.

Use of local roads
Although there is no definite proposal in the document for truck routes southward from Motueka, this study shows an expectation that trucks will use SH60 to travel from Motueka to Richmond and then SH6 to go south.

It is thought likely that later, especially if and when a passenger and tourist service begins, some of the smaller vehicles and vans will use the Motueka Valley Highway.

The planners expect new feeder roads to be built from the terminal inside the Moutere Inlet to about half way along Wharf Road and to SH60 north of the Moutere River bridge, with no extra traffic using Trewavas Street.

Motueka terminal location
The draft idea is to reclaim land within the Moutere Inlet connected to the southern side of Wharf Road and to SH60. The reclaimed land would house waiting vehicles, two docks and an administrative building.

The dredged area for the ferry to use would be Y-shaped to enable the ferry to turn in two movements. The route out of the port will go directly through a dredged channel splitting the sandbar.

Benefit to New Zealand as a whole
The feasibility study repeatedly emphasises the fact that recent earthquake activities have demonstrated the lack of resilience in NZ's transport routes, and that a second ferry service linking the two islands would provide a much higher level of resilience.

Next steps
The aim of the project is to start physical development in 2020 and begin sailings in 2021. Before achieving that, the following steps are proposed:

  • Engineering scoping - the physical design of terminals and vessels and related matters
  • Regional economic assessment
  • Environment scoping study and mitigation of any harms
  • Commercial case development

These will be conducted in parallel, and if they show the service remains viable, three further processes are envisaged:

  • Detailed engineering and design
  • Resource consent process
  • Seek and signup major investors

Comment by Sue Clark:
[Posted 31 May 2017]

Its really good to see that so much thought and investigation has gone into the proposal to date. Surely this can't be scrapped for a few Godwits - the possibility is that they won't be disturbed anyway?

Comment by Beth Bryant:
[Posted 3 June 2017]

Motueka and Moutere estuaries are rated as 'Nationally significant' to birds. Both estuaries provide food for wading shorebird communities. Some of these shorebird communities are classified as Nationally and Internationally significant. This Ferry idea impacts on migratory species of TWO to THREE THOUSAND godwits as well as a large population of red knots. NZ is signatory to three treaties/conventions which are related to the protection of migratory species AND their habitats.

There are four species of birds living here which are Nationally CRITICAL, six species which are Nationally VULNERABLE, four AT RISK/ DECLINING. Motueka is second only to Farewell spit for birds. You have to get a permit to go on Farewell spit- so we are very lucky here in Motueka that we can see all these different birds on our doorstep. Tourists come to Motueka to see these birds.

We need to look after these treasures and protect and care for their habitat from infilling and degradation. The estuaries are feeding areas for birds. The Sandspit is a roosting area for birds and is in fact the only roosting site left in Tasman bay on highest tide as all the others are built up or flooded then. Sandspit is also an important nesting area for some birds.

Surely we want to care for these treasures for themselves and so that we and future generations can enjoy them. The birds are a finite resource and care is needed if we wish to retain them.

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