A new inter-island ferry service operating from Whanganui could be profitable, early number crunching suggests.

Midwest Ferries trustee Graham Adams said the company had engaged consultants to produce a detailed business plan and early indications were positive.

"The consultants have advised that the first round of number crunching shows that the service will be profitable with just one ferry to begin with," Mr Adams said.

The ferry proposal is the brainchild of Whanganui businessman Neville Johnson who aims to operate a Whanganui-Motueka service carrying freight and passengers.

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His plan envisages a roll-on, roll-off ferry service from Castlecliff to Port Motueka carrying heavy trucks, campervans, cars and passengers, and would be a back-up to the Wellington-Picton service in case of a natural disaster.

Midwest Ferries is working to a deadline to produce its business plan by May after the company was asked to back-up its proposal with a professional appraisal by those behind the city's port revitalisation project.

That project aims to finalise a master plan by June. For Midwest Ferries to be accomodated in that plan it needs to prove the service would be viable.

Mr Adams said the company needed to raise $100,000 to fund the business plan and had already raised $42,000.

"Fundraising for the feasibility study is progressing well with support from many people who understand the huge economic benefit the ferry proposal could bring to Whanganui and Motueka."

Midwest Ferries trustees Graham Adams, Rod Pearce and Neville Johnson.
Midwest Ferries trustees Graham Adams, Rod Pearce and Neville Johnson.

The ferry proposal is estimated to cost $50 million to get off the ground, but Mr Johnson has said he is confident of attracting investors once the business case has been proven.

Start-up capital would cover the dredging, land reclamation, vessel leasing, infrastructure, costs of employing 20 shore staff and administration costs.

See link below for feature story on ferry proposal.

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