A proposal to establish a Caples Valley gondola may be
revisited after a new report ranked it the highest of 12
options to access Milford Sound.
The MWH report, commissioned by Environment Southland,
assessed proposals, both active and inactive, based on risks
Two proposals, the Fiordland Link Monorail and the Milford
Dart Tunnel - both being considered by Department of
Conservation operations deputy director Sue Cosford - ranked
third and fifth respectively.
Listed second was the mandatory park and ride option, a
shuttle bus which was mooted to reduce congestion on both the
Milford road and viewing points.
Based on the findings, the Sky Trail Milford Gondola,
initially proposed by Skyline Enterprises Ltd and Ngai Tahu
in 2001, ''has the highest overall score'', the report said.
Skyline Enterprises managing director Ken Matthews yesterday
said he was unaware of the report, but based on its
conclusion it would be ''appropriate'' to revisit the
The 12.6km gondola, estimated to cost up to $110 million to
build, was to carry 900 passengers an hour, with a one-way
journey taking about 35 minutes.
It would have reduced the 12-hour round trip by about three
''There was a change to the management plan, or the
Conservation Act, ...that precluded the [project
Mr Matthews said yesterday he had not had time to think about
revisiting the gondola proposal or talk to Ngai Tahu, but it
was ''food for further consideration''.
''We always maintained it had the lowest impact on the
environment of any of those other means of access ... to
''In light of what you've told us, then we would want to have
another look at it; it would be appropriate to do so."
Environment Southland policy and planning manager Ken Swinney
said the report was ''mainly to inform Environment Southland
of its transport strategy'' but noted access to Milford Sound
was a hot topic.
While the gondola option scored highly, the report was ''not
about picking winners''.
''It has ranked the highest based against the ... criteria
that we used. We did not take into account if it was
financially viable. All we have done is rank apples with
He said the gondola was still an option ''should those people
wish to activate it''.
The report resulted from publicly available information, and,
as such, the gondola option had significant information gaps
and uncertainties because it had ''got to a certain point in
time and then nothing [further] publicly has happened to
While the report said there was ''significant uncertainties
over the affordability and consentability'' for both the
monorail and gondola, they ''tended to score well for all
except the environmental criteria''.
Among the criteria used to assess the options were long and
short-term impacts on the environment, overall tourist
experience, economic impact for both local communities and
Southland, and national and international image.
Milford Dart Ltd director Michael Sleigh said he had not seen
the report but ''looked forward to seeing it and commenting
when it's available''.
Both the Milford Dart Tunnel and Fiordland Link Monorail have
been approved in principle, but Doc media adviser Reuben
Williams said yesterday a final decision on the proposals may
be ''some time off''.