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Kaikoura Mayor Winston Gray is calling on cruise ships, including the Azamara Journey, to visit Kaikoura as planned this summer. The Azamara Journey is scheduled to visit in March and carries up to 694 passengers and 407 crew. It will be the largest cruise ship to visit the town. He talks to David Hill.

Kaikoura will do anything it can to accommodate cruise ships this summer, says Mayor Winston Gray.

Mr Gray is hopeful Swedish cruise ship Caledonian Sky will visit the quake-devastated town on Tuesday, December 27, as scheduled.

He is also hopeful road access to the town will be restored before Christmas.

“Our message to the cruise ship industry is come – we will get them (passenger) in here.

“There’s still plenty for them to do. The walks are open, there’s kayaking and seal swimming.”

“By Christmas time we are hoping we will have the road (SH1) open and better access to the Inland Road, but we just can’t put a date on it. It’s not a sprint – it’s a marathon.”

Destination Kaikoura general manager Glenn Ormsby says he has been keeping in contact with Cruise New Zealand, which has been very supportive.

“Kaikoura is still on the map and we will be reviewing it closer to the time.

Some of those cruise ships aren’t due to come until February or March, so things could change between now and then, but safety is paramount and the cruise ship companies have to make those decisions.”

Caledonian Sky is scheduled to make a return visit Kaikoura on January 16, while other planned cruise ship visits include Seabourn Encore on February 23, Bremen on March 7 and Azamara Journey on March 13.

Seabourn Encore and Azamara Journey both carry more than 600 passengers, plus crew, so should those ships visit as planned it will be a major boost for Kaikoura’s businesses.

In the meantime council engineers are working hard to ensure local infrastructure is up to standard to cope with an influx of summer visitors.

Mr Gray says some 250mm pipes are being laid on the ground (and later placed in the ground) to provide some “water security” over the busy Christmas period.

“There’s a real groundswell of community spirit and we’ve got to foster that and keep it going. The key to it is we can get business up and running.

“If we can get the summer holiday people back it will make a hell of a difference.”

Mr Ormsby says 82 percent of Kaikoura’s retail, hospitality and general service outlets “are open for business”.

“It’s encouraging to see and feel a level of optimism around the community. The community and tourism operators have received hundreds of messages of support and it is humbling and overwhelming.”

Whale Watch Kaikoura chief executive Kauahi Ngapora says operators are looking forward to work being completed on the marina.

“South Bay Marina will be dredged to improve access on all tides. It’s estimated that the full repair of the marina could take up to four months from start to finish. However, operators are working on a range of alternative options with the engineer and contractor to get vessels operational earlier than this timeframe.”