Te Ātiawa o te Waka a Māui Trust chief executive Justin Carter, Port Marlborough chief executive Rhys Welbourn, Marlborough mayor John Leggett and iReX programme director Stephen O'Keefe at the celebration for the Waitohi Picton terminal project.

Work on a new multi-million new ferry terminal in Picton that can cater for new, larger, greener ferries is officially underway.

Before Christmas “enabling works” at Picton’s ferry terminal will be undertaken, so major construction on the new terminal can start in 2023.

New Interislander ferries are expected to make it to the shores of Aotearoa by 2025 and 2026. Terminal upgrades in both Picton and Wellington are needed to accommodate them, in what is estimated to be a $1.45 billion infrastructure project.

The occasion was marked by a special event on Saturday, attended by the mayor John Leggett and councillors, MP Stuart Smith and other key stakeholders to celebrate the start of the enabling works.

Inter-island Resilient Connection (iReX) programme director Stephen O’Keefe said while there was still a lot of work to do, it was exciting to gather and see the “real work” start.

“It was a shovel ready project. When I think of shovel ready, I think of a few weeks ago when we had a blessing ceremony here at Waitohi to protect the site.

“I think we were shovel ready, but the whenua wasn’t shovel ready, the ground was pretty cold. But we attacked that ground, and now the ground is really, truly, ready.”

O’Keefe said the enabling works, to be completed this year, included moving the rail turntable further away from the site, upgrades to the Waitohi culvert for storm water drainage improvements, building a temporary terminal, and some “preparation” at Dublin St.

The current terminal would be demolished in 2023, to allow for the new one and the wharf to be built, he said.

Speaking after his speech, O’Keefe said it was really the “proper start” of the project.


“We’ve been designing and doing concepts for three years, and now we’re ready to start,” he said.

“We’ve got to get certain things done before Christmas, so that we can start the major construction in the New Year.”

He said “you could do all the talk” and show lots of pretty pictures of the design, but Saturday’s event showed “it’s really happening”.

He said the “technical design process” had started for the new ferries, and the KiwiRail ships team had even been to Korea to meet with those that would build the ferries.

“Again, there’s been lots of planning with the ship yard, but we’re now starting the rigorous process around the technical and interior design of the ships,” he said.

“This next phase will last for around year. We don’t cut steel on the ships until 2024, so if ever there was an expression for an example of 80% planning, 20% build, the ship building is like that.

“It’s an enormous amount of design and planning, but build fast.”

Te Ātiawa o te Waka a Māui Trust chief executive Justin Carter addressed the crowd with a Māori proverb: Kia whakatōmuri te haere whakamua.

“I walk backwards into the future with my eyes fixed on my past,” Carter said.

He said the area was particularly special for Te Ātiawa, whose awa (Waitohi River) was near the site, and it was encouraging that the relationship with stakeholders involved with the project had been positive and authentic.

“It provides a way in which Te Ātiawa can express its culture and its connection and relationship of this whenua through this project.

“The sacred awa is right there, so it couldn’t get any more special.”

He said when he thought about the future, he also thought about what was left for the next generation.

“The responsibility we have now as project partners, iwi, and the community is to ensure that our community and people thrive now and into the future. It is what it means to be good ancestors.”

Port Marlborough chief executive Rhys Welbourn said its team believed in measuring its success in terms of its ability to positively impact on people, the planet, the economy and its partnerships.

“This project really ticks all those boxes, and delivers real success to the Marlborough region and our partners,” Welbourn said.

“The project affords the opportunity to make changes to some of our core infrastructure and how we connect together and with the rest of New Zealand and the world.”

Marlborough mayor John Leggett said it wasn’t that long ago the council was asking the community whether it should raise a $110m loan to finance the port’s share of the project.

“I really want to congratulate KiwiRail, Port Marlborough, Te Ātiawa o te Waka a Māui on the success of the public engagement.

“We have a community that are right behind this project.”

The redevelopment is expected to take at least four years and create 200 full-time construction jobs and 100 jobs in indirect employment.

The Waitohi Picton terminal build involves:
A new terminal building, wharf, landscaped grounds and waterfront
Improved connections between the ferry precinct and town centre, and roading improvements in Picton.
Design that celebrates the rich culture, environment and history of the area
Flood protection and future proofing for rising sea levels
Sensitive environmental and sustainable practice – with the two new ferries expected to cut Interislander’s emissions by 40 per cent.