THE IMPACT of the NZ Government’s cancellation of the NZ$1.3 billion iReX project to replace KiwiRail’s ageing Interislander rail/ro/pax ferries is being felt at local levels.

Port Marlborough last week announced the wind-down agreement for cessation of terminal works at Picton had now been reached in terms of the final works of the project.

“Our teams have worked with KiwiRail on the iReX project for many years now, and while the news to wind down the project was disappointing, we are continuing to collaborate with the Ministerial Advisory Group, Ministry of Transport, and KiwiRail as we navigate the way forward to ensure the inter-island connection for New Zealand,” Port Marlborough said.

The demolition of the old ferry terminal building will now be going ahead as planned over the coming months, and Port Marlborough will be leading the work to reconfigure this site.  “It has now reached the end of its life and has not been maintained to the usual high standard over recent years as we were working towards its demolition as part of the iReX project.

“We can confirm that the temporary terminal building located on Auckland Street remains a temporary building and will remain in its current location until 2029. The ferry terminal car park which is located on Port Marlborough owned land, had been reconfigured in recent months in anticipation of the iReX construction works. As the construction in this area will not be proceeding imminently, our teams will now work on restoring the carpark area to ensure its suitability for short and long-term parking, buses and for our community and visitors to our region.”

Port Marlborough said maintenance of its “Number One” (Interislander) wharf at Picton had been reduced in anticipation of demolition as part of the iReX project but would now resume “ensuring the infrastructure will provide reliable service until 2029, before which time we will have a greater understanding of any new interisland ferry requirements”.

“Despite the iReX project not moving forward as planned, Port Marlborough remains committed to working in partnership with the government and KiwiRail to find innovative solutions for the Cook Strait connection, ensuring we are prepared for the future,” Port Marlborough said.

Meanwhile, the NZ Herald last week revealed that KiwiRail didn’t move to terminate its NZ$551 million contract with Hyundai Mipo Dockyard for the new ferries until mid-February, when it received a directive letter from finance minister Nicola Wills, two months after she announced the cancellation of the project.

The Herald sought further information about the minister’s letter under the Official Information Act but was told the matter was subject to ongoing consideration and commercially sensitive. “I do not consider it in the public interest to comment further at this time. The Government is still considering potential options for replacing Kiwirail’s ageing ferries,” Ms Willis said.