NELSON Airport CEO Mark Thompson has been appointed chair of the Ministerial Advisory Group to help with the future of KiwiRail’s inter-island ferry service. 

He will be joined by a two more members, Mark Cairns and Roger Sowry. 

State-owned enterprises minister Paul Goldsmith said Mr Thompson’s 30-year career in logistics and transport operations made him the right choice.  

“It’s important for New Zealand that KiwiRail is focused on ensuring safe, resilient, and reliable ferry services over the short to medium term while longer term solutions for the Cook Strait connection are developed,” Mr Goldsmith said. 

“So, I’m very pleased to announce the appointment … of Mark Thompson as chair of the Ministerial Advisory Group. 

“Mark Cairns also brings extensive logistics and transport experience. He is currently a director of Freightways, Auckland International Airport and Sanford Limited. He also has experience in infrastructure, construction, contracting and capital markets that will be valuable for the advisory group. 

“Roger Sowry is a professional director with considerable governance expertise. His current and previous director roles span companies in several sectors including technology, health, infrastructure and energy.” 

The news comes days after KiwiRail started discussions with South Korea’s Hyundai Mipo Dockyard over a termination agreement for the contract for the build of two new inter-islander ferries for Cook Strait service. 

Replacing the ferries will be part of the Ministerial Advisory Group’s discussions. 

The inter-islander moves about $14 billion of freight and more than 800,000 passengers between the islands each year and is considered an essential part of the New Zealand supply chain. 

“New Zealanders want to see ferry services on Cook Strait provided efficiently in a competitive market, that integrate with the wider transport system and support the economy,” Mr Goldsmith said.  

“In December, the Government committed to establishing the independent advisory group to give us assurance that these objectives will be met.”