Backers of the $170 million Fiordland monorail say the plan
has public support - but a petition opposing the scheme has
collected almost 20,000 signatures.
The proposed 41 km monorail would link Queenstown and
Fiordland National Park.
Its backer, multi-millionaire property developer Bob
Robertson, said it would bring in 20,000 extra tourists to
New Zealand and create hundreds of jobs.
But opponents of the plan, which would see the rail pass
through 29.5 km of the Department of Conservation's Snowdon
Forest, say destruction wreaked on the World Heritage Area
will far outweigh any tourism benefits.
Southland District mayor Frana Cardno and Save Fiordland
chairman Bill Jarvie presented the details of two petitions
opposing the monorail plans to Deputy Prime Minister and
Clutha-Southland MP Bill English in Wellington on Thursday.
They will formally present Mr English the petition sometime
in the next couple of weeks while he is back in Southland.
There are more than 11,000 signatures on the hard-copy
petition and more than 7000 on an online version but the
signatures are still rolling in, said Ms Cardno.
"People are realising its a World Heritage Area and it needs
to stay that way," she said.
"It's pointing out to the minister there's a lot of New
Zealanders - who've signed the petition from around New
Zealand and the world - who think our wilderness areas are
"There are very few places like this left in the world, that
are accessible wilderness."
A public opinion poll commissioned by Mr Robertson's Infinity
Investment Group released today show a majority of those
surveyed would support the monorail, as long as national park
land was avoided.
The survey was carried out by Curia Market Research and
polled 662 people. It found 58 per cent of New Zealanders
supported development of the monorail outside of National
Park land while 27 per cent opposed it.
The results showed more support than opposition regardless of
gender, age or political leanings.
"The Fiordland Link Experience is designed to be a
world-class tourism experience. It's really encouraging that
the public recognises the significant benefits it will bring
to New Zealand despite some misinformation spread by a small
group of vocal opponents," Mr Robertson said in a statement.
A significant amount of work had been done with the route
design and construction techniques to make sure environmental
impact is minimal, he said.
"Our aim is to be a model of eco-friendly, sustainable
tourism. We have refined our proposal during eight years of
consultation with the Department of Conservation to ensure
the route showcases scenery of great beauty without entering
any wilderness areas or land classified as remote."
The Fiordland Link Experience will be a $179, two-hour trip
from Queenstown to Lake Te Anau on the fringe of the
protected national park.
It will include a catamaran ride up Lake Wakatipu before an
all-terrain vehicle ride through the back country Mt Nicholas
station to a monorail station.
Visitors will then get on the silent monorail, based on one
in Kuala Lumpur, and cut through 29 km of Department of
Conservation beech forest which forms part of the Te
Wahipounamu (South West New Zealand) World Heritage Area -
with the rest on privately-owned farmland.
Mr Robertson has already sunk $5 million of his own cash into
the proposal, which has been in the making for the past
If the project gets approval, construction would be completed
by 2017, he said.
Conservation Minister Nick Smith is expected to visit the
area in November and make a decision on the proposal by early
- Calida Smylie of APNZ