Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Marlborough Mayor rocked by ferry project axeing

Marlborough Mayor, Nadine Taylor says she is “shocked and disappointed” by the news that KiwiRail will cancel the inter-island ferries project, iReX.

She said while the decision will not directly impact Marlborough’s ratepayers financially it will have an impact on New Zealand’s long term inter-island infrastructure. 

“This will come as a particular shock to the Picton community who are most directly affected by this decision. The town has been very engaged in the new ferries project and have been a great supporter of it,” the Mayor said.

“A large number of workers had been expected to work on the iReX project over the coming years.

“I want to emphasize to Kiwis and overseas travellers that Picton is open for business. The Interislander and Bluebridge ferries are working as normal across Cook Strait.”

Mayor Taylor said she would like to sit down with the new Government and talk through what the future looks like for the inter-island infrastructure.

“There is no doubt that we need to invest in this national transport connection for the long term. The question now is how and when we will do that,” she said.

The Mayor said Port Marlborough, which is wholly owned by Marlborough District Council, has robust agreements in place with KiwiRail that require the completion of early works at the port of Picton and the reinstatement of any affected assets. 

KiwiRail Chair, David McLean today announced the company would discontinue project efforts after a request for additional funding was rejected by the new coalition Government.

“The KiwiRail Board was yesterday advised by the Government that it has decided not to provide further funding for the Inter-Island Resilient Connection (iReX) project,” said Mr McLean.

“Unfortunately, we cannot proceed without further Government funding. We respect the Government’s role as shareholder and funder to make this decision.”

He said the KiwiRail Board would now oversee the wind down of the project and review its plans for the Cook Strait connection. 

“The Board acknowledges the disappointment of our team and stakeholders involved in this project. We sought a strong outcome for New Zealand through this project for a more resilient State Highway 1 across Cook Strait for exporters, domestic freight forwarders, tourism and domestic commuters.”

“We will work with the Government, our customers, ports and other stakeholders on the way forward. An alternative suitable long-term solution could take years to develop. 

“In the interim, KiwiRail will continue to invest in the safety and reliability of the existing Interislander fleet, through strong asset management practices,” Mr McLean said.

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