Interislander ferry cancellations leave people sleeping on couches, stuck on wrong island


Cancelled Cook Strait ferries have left people sleeping on couches and Picton streets clogged with cars, says the mayor of Marlborough.

Interislander's Kaitaki ferry has been reduced to a freight-only service after it lost power in the Strait last month and its Kaiarahi ferry has been undergoing repairs for its heat exchanger in the funnel.

About 5000 people and 1500 cars have been affected.

Interislander executive general manager Walter Rushbrook said the Kaitaki ferry had a fault with the engine's cooling system.

"The root cause was a fault in the ship's engine cooling system. As is common in ships, there is one water cooling system which is connected to all four of the main ship engines and also to the engines that run the generators for electricity."

Bluebridge was also down a ferry - leaving just a single passenger service operating.

Marlborough mayor Nadine Taylor told Nine to Noon she had heard of local families taking in stranded passengers and looking after cars that people have had to leave.

Accommodation providers were also swamped and doing their best to help people find a roof over their heads, she said.

Picton was already busy at this time of year and better communication was needed from both companies, she said.

"Incredibly frustrating for those passengers stuck on either side of Cook Strait and the island that they might have enjoyed visiting but don't want to be in right now."

Local airline Sounds Air was putting on extra flights where possible, she said.

Meanwhile, Cook Strait passenger services will be restored in part today on both the Interislander and Bluebridge ferries.

Bluebridge said it will return to a normal sailing schedule with two ships carrying both passengers and freight from 1.30pm.

Its Connemara vessel has been undergoing sea trials this morning after it suffered engine trouble on Friday.

However, the company warned there was almost no available space on other sailings over the coming weeks, and it won't be able to accommodate all cancelled passengers.

KiwiRail said the Kairahi will depart Wellington at 4.30pm. The Aratere is also sailing today.