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KiwiRail to front select committee, future of Cook Strait ferries hangs in the balance

Author
Georgina Campbell,
Publish Date
Wed, 7 Feb 2024, 10:11am
Photo / Mark Mitchell
Photo / Mark Mitchell

KiwiRail to front select committee, future of Cook Strait ferries hangs in the balance

Author
Georgina Campbell,
Publish Date
Wed, 7 Feb 2024, 10:11am

KiwiRail bosses will front a select committee meeting next week where they are expected to face pressing questions about the future of Interislander’s Cook Strait ferries.  

Plans to replace the existing fleet of three ferries with two new purpose-built mega ferries were thrown into disarray before Christmas.  

Finance Minister Nicola Willis called time on a string of cost blowouts fearing she would be left with a “completely open chequebook” had she agreed to pour money into the mega ferry project.  

Willis refused a request for $1.47 billion of additional funding leaving the scheme dead in the water.  

The Government is setting up an expert advisory group to provide independent assurance on how to proceed with the ferry service. 

Transport and Infrastructure Select Committee chairman Andy Foster confirmed KiwiRail will front the committee on February 15 for an annual review of the state-owned enterprise. 

“In the time available for select committee scrutiny the committee generally chose to hear from the larger organisations within our delegations, and which had the most significant issues that we wished to consider. 

“I don’t think anyone would be surprised that KiwiRail would be one of those organisations.” 

KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy cancelled a pre-arranged interview with the Herald about the future of the ferries this week as he prepares for the select committee meeting. 

Foster stressed KiwiRail’s appearance was the normal business of select committees. 

“All select committees are currently doing annual reviews for the 2022/23 financial year, which will be reported back to the House by the end of March. 

“That oversight includes reference to annual reports, issues that have arisen between the end of the financial year and now, and to the organisation’s strategic environment.” 

Changes have been made to the rules governing select committee scrutiny following a review of standing orders last year. 

One of the changes has allowed some annual review hearings to be more in-depth than in previous years. 

This means they will be longer with the expectation committee members will have more opportunity to develop sustained lines of questioning 

Organisations may be asked to attend annual review hearings of three hours or more, split over two meetings if necessary. 

It’s understood KiwiRail will be subject to one of these in-depth annual reviews. 

Georgina Campbell is a Wellington-based reporter who has a particular interest in local government, transport, and seismic issues. She joined the Herald in 2019 after working as a broadcast journalist. 

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