The controversial monorail proposal linking Queenstown to
Te Anau Downs and subsequently Milford Sound could soon be
Conservation Minister Nick Smith yesterday visited the
proposed terminus site at Te Anau Downs and made public the
official advice from the Department of Conservation and the
Hearing Commissioner, which recommends he approve the
Fiordland Link Experience.
That was the opposite of advice that saw Dr Smith reject the
Milford-Dart tunnel because of its impact on Fiordland
The $200 million monorail proposal is from Riverstone
Holdings Ltd, controlled by Wanaka property developer Bob
It includes 43km of monorail (which Dr Smith said would be
the world's longest monorail), a catamaran trip across Lake
Wakatipu and an all-terrain vehicle journey to the terminus
at Kiwi Burn.
News that official advice recommended Dr Smith approve the
proposal, subject to extensive conditions, left former
Southland mayor Frana Cardno ''extremely, extremely
Ms Cardno said the proposal would be ''an obnoxious eyesore''
which should not be allowed on the ''World Heritage land in
She is part of Save Fiordland, which has been vocal in
protesting the proposal, and when asked whether the group
would appeal the decision if the monorail was granted, she
said ''we will be seriously looking at it''.
Yesterday, Dr Smith insisted ''the decision is mine'' and the
recommendation that the monorail be given a tick ''does not
prejudge my decision'', which he hoped to make before
There was no question, Dr Smith said, about the area's beauty
and while he said he had a protective view of national parks,
what was significant about the project ''is that it is
outside the Fiordland National Park except for a very small
area that is already leased out to the hotel at Te Anau
He wanted to see for himself ''the areas affected by the
construction of the two terminals and the 29.5km long, 6m
wide corridor that would be cleared to make way for the
monorail through public conservation land'' and scrutinise
the effects on the Snowdon Forest.
Dr Smith in July turned down the commercial bus tunnel
proposed by Milford Dart Ltd to link Routeburn Rd in Mt
Aspiring National Park to Hollyford Rd in the Fiordland
''This monorail decision will be no easier than that of the
Milford Tunnel. I am very protective of national parks like
Fiordland and this project has the advantage of being largely
outside it,'' he said.
''However, the monorail still requires clearance of a large
area of forest on public conservation land. The submissions
process also shows there are strongly held views both in
support and in opposition to this project.
''I am releasing the official reports from Doc and the
Hearing Commissioner because of the level of public interest
in this proposal. I want to be open about the advice I have
received and the issues I must consider.''
Smith will also discuss the issue with the New Zealand
Conservation Authority and ''consider further advice from Doc
on the World Heritage status of the area.''
Forest and Bird Otago-Southland field officer Sue Maturin
said in a statement yesterday that while the Snowdon Forest,
through which 29km of the monorail would run, was not a
national park, it did have high values and the project would
pose a risk to wildlife.
Southland Mayor Gary Tong - officially sworn in yesterday -
said it was ultimately Dr Smith's decision and he remained
hopeful the minister would decline the proposal.
''I don't want to stand on Nick Smith's toes, but I hope he
takes everything into account before he makes this decision
... In the long run, I am [hopeful he'll say no].''
A spokeswoman for Riverstone Holdings Ltd managing director
Bob Robertson said when contacted he was not granting media
In a statement, he said the company welcomed the release of
the commissioner's report and agreed the proposal met the
required legal tests and was able to be granted with
conditions which ''carefully manage its impact''.
Mr Robertson said unlike the commissioner's report on the
proposed Milford-Dart Tunnel, the report recognised the
monorail's impacts could be ''appropriately mitigated''.
- Additional reporting BusinessDesk