Funding options for a Lyttelton cruise ship berth are contained in a secret Christchurch City Council report to be revealed soon and may become part of the port company’s expansion plans.
The clamour from commercial operators for tourist cruise ship facilities has prompted the report on costs and benefits compiled by Christchurch City Holdings.
The report was tabled at the March city council meeting and placed in the “public excluded” section.
Christchurch City Holdings chief executive Paul Munro said releasing the report could undermine Lyttelton Port’s commercial position as it negotiated with cruise lines customers.
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Mayor Lianne Dalziel said discussions on funding were progressing. She is expected to make an announcement soon.
Lyttelton Port chief executive Peter Davie said the port could build a berth in the jetty area to the west of the straddle cranes.
But it would need to be substantial to hold large ships in the strong nor’westers and southerlies that could blow up, Davie said.
Funding a cruise ship berth – estimated to cost about $50 million – may require Christchurch City Holdings or the city council to take on more debt, and could affect the modest forecast dividends from the port company which offset rates.
Michael Esposito the chief executive of private company Welcome Aboard which operates the Christchurch trams and gondola, said the benefits of cruise ships were enormous.
He pointed to other council-associated expenditure such as the new airport hotel and hot water pools for New Brighton.
Esposito said the economic benefits were undeniable but he would not be drawn on how he thought it could be funded.
A Tourism Industry Aotearoa report on infrastructure listed cruise facilities as third on the list of Canterbury’s priorities behind visitors and worker accommodation.
The report prepared by Deloitte said cruise and conference facilities may benefit certain regions, but required substantial investment and “returns may be uncertain in timing and scale”.
Meanwhile, Lyttelton Port is lodging a resource consent application for further reclamation at Te Awaparahi Bay on the seaward side of the port.
The application seeks expansion from 10 hectares with an additional 25ha, filled partly by rocks cleared from hills above Evans Pass Road.
The application follows an earlier one lodged in December for dredging the harbour for big ships, and preparing the reclamation area.
Environmental planning lawyer Mark Christensen said there was some overlap between the consents. The expansion was a controlled activity under the district plan, and the arguments were only about conditions rather than whether it should proceed.
“Lyttelton Port has an adaptive approach to monitoring events and modifying controls if required. Ngai Tahu’s submissions have reservations about that,” Christensen said.
Port chief executive Davie said the company had been gathering data with the help of several buoys installed around the harbour to measure turbidity.
For example, the data showed it took about six days for sediment to travel south from the Waimakariri River after a nor’wester.