An unprecedented turnout to a public meeting in Picton last night showed almost unanimous support for keeping ferry services in Picton, despite Government plans to move them south of Blenheim.

The Government wants to shift all freight and passenger services to Clifford Bay, 35km south of Blenheim.

At an estimated cost of $422 million, the change would cut the road-ferry journey between Wellington and Christchurch by almost an hour and a half and shorten the rail trip by nearly two hours.

But local business owners believe the move would be devastating for Picton's economy.


The Malborough District Council last night held a public meeting to gauge public support and hear both sides of the argument.

The turnout was bigger than expected, forcing organisers to change venue at the last minute.

But despite the large attendance - and repeated requests from the floor - not a single person stood up in support of the proposal.

Picton bed and breakfast owner Gary Riggs estimated that the plans would cut his business' revenue by 70 per cent.

"Obviously there's a big adjustment for the town of Picton. Some suggest that it will die. That won't actually happen but certainly there will be total change to the situation," he told Radio New Zealand.

"Picton is largely a retirement town and so the loss of employment here will be more keenly felt."

A Ministry of Transport report on the viability of the plans is expected in April.