Monorail viability report ordered

Bob Robertson
Bob Robertson
Riverstone Holdings Ltd managing director Bob Robertson is confident the proposed $200 million Fiordland monorail will stand up to an independent report on its financial viability.

Conservation Minister Nick Smith announced yesterday he had asked the Department of Conservation to commission an independent financial viability report which he expected to receive in February, after which he would make his decision.

In a statement, Dr Smith said the monorail was ''the most significant concession ever sought on public conservation land and the longest monorail in the world'' and, if it failed, it could leave the department and taxpayer ''with a half-built or under-utilised structure through public conservation land''.

Dr Smith made public in October official advice from Doc and the hearing commissioner recommending he approve the monorail and he said he hoped to ''be in a position to make a decision before year's end''. Mr Robertson said in a statement yesterday the monorail proposal was sound.

Nick Smith
Nick Smith
''While the further delay in a decision on the concession is disappointing, we understand the minister's need to cover off all aspects of the project.''

''We are absolutely confident that the Fiordland Link Experience will be a world-class tourism experience that will draw tens of thousands of new tourists to New Zealand and the region.''

He referred to an independent economic assessment the company had commissioned and which was released last week which said the Fiordland Link Experience would be worth more than $80 million a year to the national economy and create more than 1000 jobs.

Dr Smith said he was satisfied with the advice from Doc but deciding whether the project was financially viable was beyond the expertise of the department.

''A bond can help manage these risks, but it would never be possible to completely reverse the effects of such a construction. I need an independent, robust assessment of the project's financial viability to enable me to make a good decision.''