Southland farmer’s cyclone relief effort frustrated by cancelled ferry service


Russell Goatley only got as far as the Interislander ferry terminal at Picton on his way to the North Island.

Anthony Phelps/STUFF

Russell Goatley only got as far as the Interislander ferry terminal at Picton on his way to the North Island.

A Southland farmer travelling to the North Island to help with Cyclone Gabrielle relief is frustrated and disappointed he had to turn around and drive home because his Cook Strait ferry crossing was cancelled.

A member of Federated Farmers, Russell Goatley had driven a truck full of fencing gear to Picton from Gore on Monday to catch the 6.30pm Interisland ferry. He was on his way to help on the East Coast in the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle, paying for the petrol and travel costs himself.

This followed efforts to book a crossing at the beginning of the month.

“I tried to book for March 20 way back at the start of the month and it was so booked up I had to wait until the 29th and now there’s no chance of getting across on either ferry until April 9.

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“I still had a hope, but they’re so booked up. It’s not good management. There were people in tears at that terminal, it’s a mismanagement disaster.

“I can’t hang around here till the 9th, I’m a farmer, and I’ve got to get back and do my own work. And if they’re that unreliable I could get caught on the other side of the strait.”

Goatley said flying up was not possible because he would not be able to carry any gear or equipment with him.

“It’s really not acceptable, my original booking was nearly four weeks out from when I wanted it.

“I’ve travelled across the strait many times over the years, and sometimes I’ve even driven straight on without really booking, that’s how it used to be, so things have really, really got tight.”

The Kaitaki has been out of service since March 4.


The Kaitaki has been out of service since March 4.

Interislander general manager operations Duncan Roy said cancellations were always a last resort.

“When a booking can’t go ahead as planned we explore all options for providing an alternative sailing for the customer. When they do happen, all customers are offered a refund or opportunity to rebook on another sailing.

“This customer was originally booked to sail at 6.30pm, March 29, on the Kaiarahi, and was advised on March 17 that the sailing had been rescheduled for 2.15pm on March 29.

“Unfortunately, the 2.15 sailing was affected by weather-related cancellations due to large swells in the Cook Strait. This customer was notified by text and email at 6.30am that morning that the sailing had been cancelled.”

Roy said sailings up until April 9 were full, and it had not been possible to accommodate Goatley on an earlier sailing.

“The ferry Kaitaki has been out of service since March 4 due to a gearbox issue. All customers booked on the Kaitaki since then whose sailings have been cancelled have either been rebooked on other vessels or, in some cases, their booking has been cancelled, and we have offered them a refund or an opportunity to rebook themselves.

“From March 4 we also paused new bookings on all our ferries in order to prioritise those people disrupted by the Kaitaki repair. This contributes to the fact the three Interislander ferries currently sailing are fully booked out till April 9.”

Goatley said he was travelling to help a young farming couple west of Gisborne but had to ring and advise that he would not be able to make it after intending to stay for two weeks.

“They were very disappointed. They were totally wiped out with slips and damage to their property.”

Goatley said the farmer he was going to help had bought a digger in the South Island to help with the slips and was unable to transport it north due to ferry cancellations.