Independent advice sought on ferry service

An expert advisory group is being established to provide the coalition Government with independent advice and assurance on KiwiRail’s inter-island ferry service, Finance Minister Nicola Willis and State Owned Enterprises Minister Paul Goldsmith say. 

“The group will help to ensure that there are robust plans in place to support safe, resilient and reliable services in the coming years. The establishment of the group also recognises that the Crown has interests that may be wider than KiwiRail’s commercial interests,” Nicola Willis says.

“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.”

Nicola Willis says she and Paul Goldsmith met this week with representatives of CentrePort, Port Marlborough, the Marlborough District Council and the Greater Wellington Regional Council as important stakeholders in the Cook Strait connection. 

“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.” 

Last week 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,” Nicola 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.”

Paul Goldsmith says the membership of the Ministerial Advisory Group will be finalised in the New Year.    

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

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

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