The Kaitaki berthed at Kaiwharawhara after spending the night anchored in Wellington harbour with passengers aboard. Photo / Mark Mitchell
By Krystal Gibbens of RNZ
Commuters who depend on the Interislander say the service being offered by KiwiRail is not good enough, after another fault left passengers stuck.
Passengers on the Kaitaki spent the night anchored in Wellington Harbour, after a problem on last night’s Picton sailing. KiwiRail said only a small number of passengers were onboard and most were commercial drivers.
After the ship was brought back to Wellington this morning, some were transferred to the Aratere.
A passenger on that sailing said the ferries were becoming increasingly unreliable.
“We’ve been travelling 20 years across the strait and this last year has been really bad.”
Transporting New Zealand interim chief executive Dom Kalasih said the ferries’ continued delays were becoming untenable for freight.
He said the delays to freight varied, but were mostly felt by time-sensitive products such as food and livestock.
Alongside delays and disruptions, Kalasih feared if KiwiRail did not address the issues on its ferries, it would one day prove fatal.
He said if a ferry lost steering, particularly in a high-risk area like Wellington heads, it “could get beached or sink”.
Public Transport Users Association national coordinator Jon Reeves said the ferries were an integral link between the North and South Island and their current state was not good enough.
“Basically the Interislander ferry is part of our State Highway 1 and national railway network. It needs to be treated with as much importance as the rest of the roading and railway network.”
Federated Farmers transport spokesman Mark Hooper said the country’s vulnerable roading infrastructure network was a major worry for producers, and that included the ferries.
Delays could put animal welfare at stake and certainty was needed over how long livestock would be in transit.
The Kaitaki has already been investigated by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission after it lost power in January.
A preliminary report found it was caused in part by KiwiRail’s failure to replace safety-critical parts, which were years past their use-by dates.
Wellington harbourmaster Grant Nalder said the ferry had been much scrutinised since.
The ferry has since been fixed and returned to service.
KiwiRail said an issue with the main steering system on the Kaitaki was resolved this morning and the ferry was back in service by 10.30am.
It apologised to passengers for the delays the disruption caused.