Relief and celebration after two-year battle

With the odds overcome, Manapouri's Ruth Shaw was overjoyed at yesterday's Government decision to refuse the Fiordland monorail.

''There's a lot of fights but not many wins,'' the environmentalist of 50 years said.

Ms Shaw was among a small group of people from in and around Te Anau who gathered at the Olive Tree Cafe in the centre of the small town to await the decision by Conservation Minister Nick Smith.

They danced, they hugged and there were even whispers one might change their vote to National. As soon as word came the minister had said no to the monorail, the mood inside the cafe erupted.

Dentist Rex Forrest finished treating a patient before joining the celebration next door.

With relief, he said, ''Well done, Nick Smith''.

''They [politicians] don't get a lot of praise but I think he will certainly get a few toasts tonight.''

There had been a common reaction from tourists in town in the past two years, he said.

''They couldn't believe that we wanted to spoil this [area] by putting something from Disneyland in a World Heritage Area.''

The National Party's new Clutha-Southland candidate, Todd Barclay, said he travelled to Te Anau especially for the announcement.

He sat among those gathered at the cafe and - luckily for him - the decision was what they had hoped for.

Members of the Save Fiordland Group, which had fiercely campaigned against the monorail, raised their glasses of Central Otago wine in a toast soon after the decision.

Between hand-shaking, hugs and congratulatory calls, group chairman Bill Jarvie said the minister's reasoning for declining the monorail was based on issues the group had raised ''from the start''.

Mr Jarvie said one issue had been separating ''believability from credibility''.

''People were told of the big sleek green thing not touching a leaf but in reality it bore no resemblance to that.''

Ms Shaw's tears of joy illustrated the passion of a small community.

The Save Fiordland committee member said while there were many conservation fights, wins were hard to come by.

''It's been two years of hard work but it's paid off.''

Cafe owner Leona McCracken said having a final decision felt ''surreal''.

A petition against the monorail had been sitting in the cafe collecting signatures, and to Ms McCracken the decision had been a long time coming.

''It was the only logical outcome,'' she said, adding tourists would continue to visit Te Anau.

Manapouri's Claire Maley-Shaw said jobs would have been lost in Te Anau if the monorail had gone ahead. The Te Anau kindergarten teacher said the refusal was ''just fantastic'' not only for Te Anau but ''all the little communities between here and Queenstown''.

- christina.mcdonald@odt.co.nz