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Cook Strait sailings to drop by one third

2 August 2004

New Zealand Shipping Federation

Cook Strait sailings to drop by one third

New Zealand's Shipping Federation today said that impending speed restrictions on ships in the Marlborough Sounds would see 30,000 passengers missing out on crossing Cook Strait over the Christmas and New Year period.

The Marlborough District Council's 'Variation Three' rule, which is being considered on August 2nd and 3rd, would further reduce speed limits in the Sounds, forcing shipping companies, including some Cook Strait ferries, to cut their services by up to a third.

"This Rule will prevent up to 3,000 people per day from crossing Cook Strait during peak season, and will reduce rail and freight capacity by around one third," said Federation Manager Paul Nicholas.

"The slower speeds mean ships, including ferries, would be forced to make only two return trips between Wellington and Picton instead of the current three.

"The Variation will have a devastating impact on the whole of New Zealand, with no real gain for residents of the Sounds," he said.

Mr Nicholas said the proposal would be a disaster for New Zealand's economy as the critical artery in the country's transport infrastructure would be permanently pinched.

"The Variation will have a massive impact on local businesses in the top of the South Island. The free movement of people between the islands, the number of tourists, critical freight supplies and the jobs of people working on these vessels will all be effected.

"This is a matter of huge national interest. Councils must be required to consider the full weight of the impact their local decisions have on national shipping."

Mr Nicholas said the Council had fully protected the Sounds against vessels exceeding the already reduced speed limits through a previous bylaw passed in 2000.

"This Variation will economically cripple the top of the South Island, and block New Zealand's main infrastructural artery, for no good reason. We ask the Council to simply continue enforcing the current bylaw," said Mr Nicholas.

The Shipping Federation represents the companies running all Cook Strait ferries - Toll New Zealand and Strait Shipping - as well as the other coastal shipping companies, Pacifica Shipping, Silver Fern Shipping and Holcim Limited.

Hearings into the Variation Three proposal are being held at the Marlborough District Council Chambers in Blenheim on August 2 - 3, from 9am.

ENDS

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