Marlborough mayor welcomes Coastal Pacific re-launch
Marlborough mayor welcomes Coastal Pacific re-launch - Speech from Mayor John Leggett
Speech from Mayor John Leggett aboard the Coastal Pacific train
23 November 2018
The Kaikoura earthquake was a double whammy for Marlborough’s East Coast, which was hit hard by the Seddon earthquake in 2013. Houses were damaged in both events. The 2016 quake also destroyed Ward’s water supply. Council was able to step in and put in new water storage tanks for Ward, in time for Christmas 2016 - it was great to be able to help them out like that. The cray fishing industry at Ward Beach was also badly affected by the raised seabed and the Flaxbourne Museum in Ward was forced to close.
I’m especially proud of the work Marlborough District Council did to support our neighbours in the northern part of Kaikoura District, who were cut off from Kaikoura and Canterbury until the road reopened. It was a case of neighbour helping neighbour.
Fortunately Blenheim, Picton and Havelock came through the quake quite well. There wasn’t much building damage and most of our businesses got back up and running quickly. The wine industry did a very good job repairing its infrastructure, in time for the 2017 harvest.
The main impact in Blenheim was to our underground pipe network and to the Ōpaoa River, which we crossed just now as we left Blenheim Station. The quake affected the river bed, causing higher water levels in town than we had before, so next week we are starting a major operation to dredge the river.
It will take some millions of dollars to fix our river banks, sewer and stormwater pipes, and we are hopeful the Government will chip in and help out with the cost of repairs.
The closure of State Highway 1 had a huge impact on Marlborough. Our domestic visitor spending went right down. The road between Blenheim and Kaikoura was a ‘ghost road’. A lot of our domestic visitors come from Canterbury - it was much harder for them to get up here to their bach or campsite in the Marlborough Sounds.
It was also harder for people coming via Picton; everyone had to go the long way around to Kaikoura via Murchison on State Highway 63. Many of our businesses had to completely change their freight and supply routes.
To me, today’s reopening of the passenger service is the icing on the cake of our two year-long recovery. This time last year we had the reopening of State Highway 1, which was a wonderful Christmas gift for Marlborough and gave a big boost to everyone here.
Marlborough is very much on the up and up - in the year to March, visitors spent $387 million dollars here, up 8% on 2017 and 7% on 2016. We have 43 cruise ship visits scheduled this year, bringing an extra 10,000 passengers compared to last year.
All our industries are doing well, unemployment is low, and the Queen Charlotte Track, which winds its way for over 70 kilometres around the Marlborough Sounds, has been shortlisted for national Great Walk status – we hope it wins. It is already a Great Ride. If the proposed Picton to Kaikoura cycle trail attracts Provincial Growth Funding there will be a world-leading trail right down the East Coast, which will provide significant economic benefits to Marlborough and Kaikoura and complete our earthquake recovery story.
We’re seeing a lot of overseas and regional migration to Marlborough now - many new people have relocated here in recent years. It helps that we have interesting job opportunities thanks to our wine, seafood, horticulture and tourism industries.
On top of that I’m confident that Blenheim will again beat our neighbour Nelson for the coveted title of New Zealand’s Sunniest Place 2018!