New Conservation Minister Nick Smith has overturned a
decision by his predecessor, announcing he will make the
final calls on the future of the Milford Dart Tunnel and
Fiordland Link Experience proposals.
''I have decided, given the scale of Fiordland projects and
the huge public interest, it is not appropriate for these
decisions to be delegated to a public official,'' Mr Smith
said in a statement yesterday.
Former minister Kate Wilkinson last year delegated the
decision-making on the two controversial projects to
Department of Conservation deputy director Sue Cosford.
At the time, she said in Parliament she had been advised
there was a long-held convention, under successive
governments, that concessions under the Conservation Act were
normally decided at departmental level.
''I have delegated this to the level of director-general to
ensure a robust process is followed, free from interference,
whether political or otherwise,'' Ms Wilkinson said.
But Mr Smith said yesterday his decision was consistent with
the powers of delegation, where the Director-general of
Conservation should refer matters of national interest or
involving significant environment, social or economic
implications to the minister.
''These are public lands and it is proper that these
decisions are made by a publicly elected and accountable
The decisions on both projects would be be difficult,as the
parks and reserves were ''much loved'' parts of New Zealand.
''There is a particularly high threshold for projects in our
''However, New Zealand also needs jobs and economic
As part of the decision-making process, he would visit the
affected areas and meet the commissioners who heard the
public submissions. He would also consult the applicants and
the New Zealand Conservation Authority.
He would primarily be advised by Doc and its advice would be
a matter of public record.
''I expect to receive the department's reports of the Milford
Dart Tunnel soonand on the Fiordland Link Experience in the
next few months.''
Green conservation spokeswoman Eugenie Sage said the party
cautiously welcomed the news after calling for this to happen
''There is significant public opposition to both proposals
because of their impacts on Fiordland and Mt Aspiring
National Parks and the internationally important South West
New Zealand Te Waipounamu World Heritage Area.''
The minister must ensure he applied the correct statutory
tests, she said.
''Conservation legislation is about protecting our national
parks, not trading away their integrity for a few short-term
construction and earthmoving jobs as the minister's comments
suggest he can do by `balancing' economic development and
Parliament's Local Government and Environment select
committee was considering a petition to stop the Routeburn
tunnel, supported by more than 24,000 online signatures, she
Milford Dart Limited project
Construct and operate a ''dart passage'', an 11.3km long, 5m
diameter single lane bus tunnel beneath the Humboldt and
Ailsa Ranges to link the Routeburn and Hollyford roads in Mt
Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks.
Fiordland Link Experience
A three-stage journey linking Queenstown on Lake Wakatipu and
Lake Te Anau, incorporating a catamaran, an all-terrain
vehicle and a monorail.