12 Feb 2024

Ferries need 'urgent attention', ministers told before project axed

6:45 pm on 12 February 2024
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - JULY 14: An Interislander ferry sails through Marlborough Sounds on July 14, 2020 in Picton, New Zealand. With international borders still closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, local businesses and operators are hoping domestic tourists will travel to the region now that coronavirus restrictions have lifted across New Zealand.  (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The government declined KiwiRail's request for further funding for a project to replace the Interislander ferry fleet in December. File photo Photo: Getty Images / Hagen Hopkins

KiwiRail told ministers its ill-fated ferry project required "urgent attention", just days before it got axed.

The Interislander operator today released its briefing to the incoming ministers, which had been prepared at the end of November.

Shortly after the report was written, the project to buy two new ferries and upgrade two ports was axed when the government refused to spend an extra $1.5 billion.

KiwiRail has blanked out nearly all references to the project in the public release of briefing.

In one unredacted part, it said it had funded the purchase of the new ships through a $350 million commercial 'green' loan.

But it also told the ministers there was a "major issue at present" with the ferries.

"KiwiRail is leading the delivery of Project iReX, the once-in-a-generation renewal portside infrastructure in Wellington and Picton. The project requires urgent attention."

It noted the embarrassing and dangerous breakdown of a ferry a year ago.

"In early 2023, service outages relating to Interislander's Kaitaki ferry regrettably resulted in disruptions to many


"The vessel was repaired and we have going above and beyond with our ongoing maintenance schedules to lift reliability performance, and improving customer communications."

The briefing redactions stated that more information about the 'Project Irex' redevelopment would be released "in coming weeks".

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