Ferry left high and dry

Crunch meet­ing looms after agree­ment with coun­cil runs out

Whanganui Chronicle - - Front Page - Zaryd Wil­son

The pro­posed ferry ser­vice from Whanganui to the South Is­land must prove its vi­a­bil­ity be­fore it gets any fur­ther coun­cil re­sources. Whanganui Dis­trict Coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive Fell told the Chron­i­cle

Mid­west Fer­ries needed to prove it had a vi­able busi­ness case be­fore coun­cil would com­mit to fur­ther in­vest­ment.

Mid­west Fer­ries launched its Whanganui-to-Motueka pro­posal in 2017, un­der­took ini­tial fea­si­bil­ity stud­ies and, in May 2018, signed a memorandum of un­der­stand­ing with the coun­cil.

The MoU stated the coun­cil sup­ported Mid­west Fer­ries “ad­vanc­ing its busi­ness case” but said the pro­posal needed “fur­ther clar­i­fi­ca­tion or in­ves­ti­ga­tion”.

That MoU lapsed in Novem­ber and Mid­west Fer­ries direc­tor Neville

John­son told the Chron­i­cle this week he hoped it would be re­newed.

“We’re talk­ing it through now, and it should be re­newed,” he said.

But Fell said it would not be re­newed un­til the com­pany pro­vided a range of in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing “ver­i­fi­ca­tion of the level of fi­nan­cial re­source ca­pa­ble of fund­ing the re­de­vel­op­ment of the Whanganui Port for an in­ter-is­land ferry ser­vice” and a “com­pelling busi­ness case” in­clud­ing “de­vel­op­ment costs and sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial sup­port from in­vestor(s)”.

John­son has what is likely to be a cru­cial meet­ing with coun­cil staff on Jan­uary 23. Fell said John­son had re­quested a six-month ex­ten­sion of the MoU but coun­cil would “with­hold any de­ci­sion to ex­tend the MoU un­til such time as Mid­west Fer­ries pro­vided the de­tail re­ferred to”.

Fell said that was all he could say due to com­mer­cial sen­si­tiv­i­ties.

“How­ever, the cost of the pro­posal in its cur­rent form would likely run into hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars and, in my view, it would take a brave in­vestor to bankroll an idea of this mag­ni­tude,” he said.

How­ever, John­son said he was bring­ing new in­for­ma­tion to the coun­cil this month and “would be sur­prised” if the MoU was not re­newed. Mean­while, Mid­west Fer­ries

It would take a brave in­vestor to bankroll an idea of this mag­ni­tude. Kym Fell

has now filed its 2017 an­nual re­turn fol­low­ing a warn­ing on the New Zealand Com­pa­nies Of­fice web­site which said it was “over­due in its obli­ga­tion to file an an­nual re­turn”.

“If the an­nual re­turn is not filed im­me­di­ately the Reg­is­trar will ini­ti­ate ac­tion to re­move the com­pany from the regis­ter,” it said. The an­nual re­turn was filed on Wednes­day after the

Chron­i­cle raised the mat­ter with John­son.

In May 2017 Mid­west Fer­ries pre­sented a fea­si­bil­ity study to Whanganui Dis­trict coun­cil­lors which found a freight-only ser­vice be­tween the two districts was tech­ni­cally and fi­nan­cially fea­si­ble and worth a de­tailed busi­ness plan based on a 180m ship car­ry­ing up to 70 trucks with one ves­sel sail­ing in each di­rec­tion per day.

How­ever, a peer re­view com­mis­sioned by the Whanganui Dis­trict Coun­cil found it con­tained “an un­usu­ally large num­ber of ar­eas ‘parked’ for fu­ture study and some crit­i­cal as­sump­tions”.

Photo / File

An artist's im­pres­sion of the pro­posed ferry link at Whanganui.

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