Four unions demand Finance Minister Nicola Willis resign over scrapping of new ferry terminal funding

Four unions representing maritime and rail workers are demanding the resignation of Finance Minister Nicola Willis.

It comes after the new Government decided not to top up funding for Kiwirail's Interislander upgrade and fleet replacement.

But Willis says it was the right decision, and she's not going anywhere.

The ferries are still coming and going, but at the terminal and along the wharf - its tools down. 

And it's made the unions mad.

"We've seen this project develop, and we're behind it. But it's just astounding for it to be canned so quickly," said Craig Harrison, chair of the Maritime Union.

Craig Harrison from the Maritime Union.
Craig Harrison from the Maritime Union. Photo credit: Newshub.

Finance Minister Nicola Willis announced on Wednesday that Cabinet had declined to fund Kiwirail's iRex project, because the cost has blown out from $1.5 billion to almost $3b.

Now, four unions representing maritime and rail workers are calling for Willis to resign.

"I think she should stand down… For making such a big call without having a lot of debate," Harrison told Newshub.

Newshub asked the Finance Minister if she'll resign.

"No… This was a decision made by Cabinet, and it was the right decision for New Zealand," she replied.

KiwiRail said it might still have to build the two ferries already on order, and then sell them.

But the new ships aren't causing the budget blowouts - it's the costs for things like seawalls and wharf upgrades to meet seismic and flood-modelling requirements.

Peter Reidy, CEO of KiwiRail, is questioning who should be footing the bill for that in the first place. 

"If Air New Zealand brought in large planes, they wouldn't have to pay for all the upgrades for the terminals," he told AM on Thursday.

KiwiRail, the Government and other stakeholders will be working through what happens next.

Willis remains adamant there will be new ferries, just not the ones Kiwirail wanted.

"The Ferrari is not the only car in the garage. I think it's time we look and see if there's a Toyota Corolla, a good reliable one, or maybe some second-hand Teslas," she told Newshub.

"I think it'll be more like a Lada. I don't think we're going to find what they're looking for to be truthful," said Harrison.

Either way the mayors of Wellington and Marlborough both want a quick solution.

"I still have some hope that there will be solutions found, but it is a necessary part of our state highway network and journeys," Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau said.

"We still need a new plan, and that's the thing I'll be talking to KiwiRail and the Government about. It's vital," Marlborough Mayor Nadine Taylor said.

It's a vital piece of infrastructure to keep the islands connected.