Clifford Ferry Terminal A PPP


The Government has asked transport officials to investigate the use of Clifford Bay in Marlborough as a new sea freight terminal to improve links between major cities in the North and South Islands, and as a further catalyst for South Island economic growth.
The Ministry of Transport evaluation will look at a number of scenarios using Clifford Bay as an operational base across freight, vehicle and passenger transport modes.
Transport Minister Steven Joyce said that if the study was positive, Clifford Bay could be a prime candidate for a PPP. “KiwiRail would not have the resources on its own to build and operate the facility. It’s the sort of facility that could provide a steady long term revenue stream to infrastructure investors.”

Arahura |KiwiRail

KiwiRail has done some preliminary analysis of using Clifford Bay as a base for ferry operations. The Ministry of Transport’s (MoT) high level evaluation will consider the economic, environmental and social impacts of using Clifford Bay from a national perspective.

The MoT study is expected to take two months to complete with any further announcements made towards the end of the year.

The aim of the MoT study is to provide a high-level, independent view of the options to develop a further sea terminal for Cook Strait ferry traffic, and to understand the wider costs and benefits to the national economy.

If Clifford Bay was commissioned as a base for ferry operations, it would take an estimated two and a half years to build the terminal and land infrastructure following funding and consent processes.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce says if Clifford Bay is found to be viable, its development would have the effect of bringing Christchurch closer to both Auckland and Wellington.
“Clifford Bay has been floated a number of times in the past. A thorough investigation will evaluate the potential it has to add to the New Zealand growth story”.

He said a Clifford Bay terminal would cut 30 minutes off the ferry trip between North and South Islands. The road trip from Wellington to Christchurch would be 50 minutes shorter and the same rail journey would reduce by 80 minutes. The journey between Auckland and Christchurch would also benefit by those time savings.
Mr Joyce says if Clifford Bay is found to be a viable option, the new terminal could provide a real boost to Christchurch’s recovery in the longer term.




  1. rtc says:

    He’s missing the point that for most tourist travelling through the Marlborough Sounds is the reason to catch the ferry - for most people 30 minutes is neither here not there.

  2. greenwelly says:

    @rtc, but it is the freight that makes the ferry financially viable..

    I doubt a ferry with only passengers/ personal vehicles would be economic

  3. mark says:

    They could offer smaller, non-car ferries for the tourist trade. Not every tourist takes their camper van, and rental cars generally aren’t allowed to be taken across the Cook Strait anyway.

    The rest of everyone would benefit from the time reductions, and the Sounds would benefit from having less wake action, which is an erosion problem there if the ferries go faster.

    I remain sceptical about the PPP preference, but otherwise, this sounds positive.

  4. Paul in Sydney says:


    You should be sceptical of PPP, in Aus they have been roughed to the point of making PPP unworkable. Everyone in the process has creamed it including Gov and a number of the projects have gone into receivership.

  5. joust says:

    suppose Bluebridge will continue to Picton? Anyone know?

  6. mark says:

    Joust - nobody will know, because Clifford Bay itself isn’t confirmed yet! Cheers, Mark

  7. Matt says:

    I’d like a Paremata - Ship Cove - Picton passenger and bicycle only ferry. i.e it’s on the Wellington Rail network, and connects for the Queen Charlotte Track. Doubt if it is economic, but I’d love someone to try.

  8. greenwelly says:

    @Matt, Didn’t they try a passenger ferry from the mana marina to Picton a few years ago, and it all ended financially rather badly.

    I suspect the general sea conditions in Cook Strait do not lend themselves to making the crossing on smaller vessels very comfortable, except in v.good weather.- Hard to make a business work if you have to tie up every time the wind blasts through cook strait.

  9. Matt says:

    Well there’s my answer then.

  10. Patrick R says:

    Bit of a killer for Picton, mind you another length of rail track Joyce can mothball….

  11. Anthony says:

    Picton relies very heavily on the Ferry Terminals, and the passengers that spend thier money at the recreational areas surrounding it, this includes Aquariums, Shops, Rentals and Parks.

    It would kill Picton entirely if the Ferry Terminals were moved.

    What i would recommend is the Upgrade of the Waterfront, Terminals and Yards, as they are getting quite run-down.

    Im a frequent traveller on the Interislander/Bluebridge so avoiding a beautiful travel through Marlborugh will be a big dissapointment it wouldn’t make the long travel from timaru worth it.

  12. Anthony says:

    An overnight ferry and daylight ferry between christchurch and wellington would be cool too!

  13. Max says:

    Building a terminal at Clifford Bay was the subject of a very detailed piece of work by Tranz Rail in the late 1990s, including gaining resource consent. The benefits to the country are huge in terms of time and fuel savings, both on the water and on land. If I remember correctly, over 90% of pax and vehicles on the ferries are heading to coming from Christchurch and parts south. So only 10% are going to Picton, Blenheim and Nelson. Picton would loose the thru traffic but could be redeveloped and marketed as a destination

  14. joust says:

    sounds as though Mr Joyce’s friends at the RTF might’ve had a hand in resurrecting this idea.

    of those 90% how many were tourists and quite enjoy the bit through the sound.

    30min quicker is insignificant on holiday - only really counts for freight.

    I do agree that Picton has become something of a destination in itself with lots of housing developments and a pretty wealthy population of its own.

  15. Max says:

    As someone that made the crossing around 60 times in 3 years….I agree that it is a very scenic trip through the sounds -The reality is that most of the people that travel on the ferries just want to get to where they are going asap - again this is the facts from research. The Picton locals were pretty wild about the prospect of CB in 1998. One thought ‘We” had was to run an RM or the Kingston Flyer from CB to Picton as a tourist shuttle or putting a ferry (in those days The Lynx) into Picton once a day. Don’t know if Kiwirail has put any thought into options

  16. malcolm says:

    I’m normally against most proposals Joyce comes up with, but I do agree with this one. It would make rail freight transport between Wellington and Christchurch much more attractive (Clifford Bay would save about two hours for rail freight movements apparently). I dont see why they still couldnt run smaller ferries through the Sounds to Picton for cars/passengers/tourists who want to go on to Nelson or enjoy the cruise through the Sounds.

    There’s no reason Picton couldnt become a lovely tourist destination without the ferries. Its a beautiful spot. Does the Milford Sound suffer from a lack of tourists, being at the end of a long road?

  17. max says:

    Yeah, Picton will lose some, but it wouldn’t be KILLED by this. That’s nonsense. Like some have said, this is one of SJ better ideas (if you can call an idea “his” that is probably older than he is…)

  18. Simon says:

    Seen it before. This proposal has been considered since the 1920′s. If it was so good (and there are lots of pro’s and con’s) why wasn’t it built then? Labour and materials were certainly much cheaper then.

    Probably the biggest aspect that hasn’t been publicly stated is getting through the RMA. This was a proposal that those of us who studied Economics at Marlborough Boys’ had as an assignment every few years and the biggest hurdle is the environmental impact.

    This is an incredibly exposed coast with a major current washing along it (why do you think the beach is BIG stones). Waves hit the beach like they aren’t going to stop and the wind…the area has been considered for wind farming…and there is the Salt Works…

    Nothing insurmountable sure, but as you can see not as easy as you may think.

  19. kegan says:

    @ greenwelly

    “Didn’t they try a passenger ferry from the mana marina to Picton a few years ago, and it all ended financially rather badly.”

    Yes. Ferry got stuck on the harbour bar on a number of occasions too (not a great look). Terminal and wharf still exist, but I doubt they’ll ever be used for that purpose again.

    @ Simon

    “This proposal has been considered since the 1920′s. If it was so good (and there are lots of pro’s and con’s) why wasn’t it built then?”

    Main interisland ferry route went to Lyttelton. Rail in Marlborough was an isolated section (not completed until the 1940s) & remained pretty much a branch line until the rail ferries were introduced…

  20. Luke says:

    a partnership with someone like Port of Tauranga would be okay, think they were a partner in the 90′s Tranz Rail proposal.
    However need to be very careful about the dodgy Aussie model which involves big investment banks.

    overall is a great idea, 30mins from ferry time plus 50mins for road journey adds up to a huge saving for a Wgtn Chch trip.

  21. Giel says:

    Great project - this must happen for NZ Inc. I would suspect that the BCR would be one of the highest of any transport project in New Zealand. Where else can you take 50 minutes off the road journey or over an hour off the rail journey - not to mention the additional 30 minutes off the sea journey. Maybe even a fast ferry could be viable again without the wash issue in the Sounds - even quicker journey there. Truly a nation building exercise bringing the North and South Islands closer together. Better than any RON. Especially important after the Christchurch earthquake too!

    This stacks up on so many levels (fuel savings, labour efficiency, equipment utilisation, time savings, less infrastructure long term etc) and very encouraging to see Joyce’ s words on it.

    One point - should be part of SHI really and main trunk railway so not really just a KiwiRail project although obviously they are a key beneficiary of it. The port should be open access so that all ferry companies can use it to keep Interislander honest. it is more like a new airport in that respect so perhaps good for a PPP as a result of that - providing appropriate caveats in place.

  22. Donald Neal says:

    Presumably the appeal from a rail freight point of view has at least as much to do with reducing the ruling grade between Wellington and Christchurch as with reducing times. Making it cheaper to move goods by rail is generally a good thing.

  23. max says:

    “This proposal has been considered since the 1920′s. If it was so good (and there are lots of pro’s and con’s) why wasn’t it built then?”

    Nobody said it was all easy going - lots of very, very beneficial projects also have big issues associated with them, and lots of very worthy projects (Auckland electrification, Auckland CBD tunnel, anyone?) languish forever for lack of political will.

  24. Luke says:

    this should negate the need for bankers to be used along a section south of Picton.
    A whole new town could arise at Lake Grassmere with motels, rail maintenance depots and maybe freight warehouses for transhipping goods bound for Blenheim and Nelson.
    Only way Picton line could stay open was if longs from Marlborough/Kaikoura Coast were transported North.

  25. iehu says:

    i think it is a wonderful and delightful idea and i would reccomend they start right away and i will travel on the ferry all the time when i travel to and from north and south islands i think it will cost heaps and heaps but it will vary between communities and social economical matters that are arising in this country plus it will be a superb veiw for everyone traveling and using the services


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