Clifford Bay – the new destination for our interisland ferry terminal?

The big question – will the interisland ferry terminal be shifted from Picton to Clifford Bay took a step closer to being answered yesterday with the announcement that a feasibility study will be completed by early next year.

Clifford Bay is located on the eastern coastline, directly opposite Wellington and about a 1.5 hour drive south of Picton.  It is said will take 80 minutes off a road-ferry trip and 110 minutes off a rail-ferry trip.

On the surface it looks a simple equation – fuel and time savings for transport will be significant, but it will be interesting to see how they justify the social impacts on not only Picton with the loss of around 1 million passengers travelling through our town but also how it affects the visitor travel routes around the top of the South.  I had a chat with Katherine Ryan on Radio New Zealand about that today:

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It will also be interesting to see how they justify the environmental impacts on what is currently a piece of untouched coastline. 

There is also the issues around the weather with this piece of coastline being notoriously exposed and rough. We see the effects in Picton, when the ferries are cancelled or postponed due to weather.  Passengers are relieved that they have the choice of cafes, shops and accommodation while they wait for the weather to clear.  One can only imagine what it will be like for those marooned at Clifford Bay, with little infrastructure around them, waiting for the ferries to sail. 

When we think about the impacts on our community, it is wide-reaching and has the potential to substantially change the way our town operates.  Picton will always be a beautiful place to visit and stay, as will the Marlborough Sounds, but the infrastructure that we currently enjoy, which is based on the flow of visitor traffic, will change significantly if those visitor flows drop. This then flows on to the services that can be provided and in turn effects the visitor experience.

We will be working hard with others in our community to ensure that the true costs and implications of this decision are included in the feasibility study – an interesting time ahead!