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Clifford Bay business case ripe for more investigation

Clifford Bay business case ‘strong enough’ for further investigation, Brownlee says

Nov. 1 (BusinessDesk) - The government is assembling a team led by Treasury and transport officials to further investigate building a $422 million inter-island road and rail freight port at Clifford Bay, says Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee.

“Cabinet believes the business case we’ve been presented is strong enough to justify further testing the viability of this major change to New Zealand’s transport infrastructure,” Brownlee said in a statement.

The announcement came as the government released the fourth of six progress reports under its Business Growth Agenda, called Building Infrastructure, which totes up spending on projects ranging from the $5.5 billion Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Fund to the $5 billion upgrade of the national grid.

Moving to Clifford Bay from the existing wharves at Picton could lead to larger ships plying the route, while cutting the journey time between Wellington and Christchurch by 80 minutes by ferry/road and 110 minutes by ferry/rail. The government is considering making the project a private/public partnership, with companies including Infratil expressing interest.

Other potential benefits would be lower fuel costs, reduced carbon emissions and smaller maintenance costs for rail and ferries, Brownlee said.

The announcement will be a relief for stakeholders including Port Marlborough, the district council and Wellington’s CentrePort, who have felt out of the loop on the government’s deliberations.

“I have discussed today’s news with some key stakeholders, including the Marlborough District Council, Port Marlborough, Strait Shipping, CentrePort and KiwiRail’s Interislander to inform them of our decision to proceed to the next stage,” Brownlee said.

“They understand that this decision could potentially rewrite the transport map for the country and the government is prepared to take the time required to make the right decision for New Zealand,” he said.

The review team will include government officials and private sector experts with a deadline of reporting back to the government by the end of April 2013. No details of the business case were released, with Brownlee saying the report was commercially sensitive and would affect ongoing negotiations.

The Building Infrastructure report sets out 67 initiatives to help build a more competitive economy, Finance Minister Bill English said. Future reports in the series will focus on natural resources and capital markets.

(BusinessDesk)

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