Te Anau's Ray Willett is well prepared at a gathering in Te
Anau yesterday as the group awaits the Government's
decision on the Fiordland monorail. Photo by Christina
Te Anau people should be crying - not cheering - over
yesterday's government decision rejecting the idea of a $240
million Fiordland monorail, its backer says.
That was the view last night of Riverstone Holdings managing
director Bob Robertson, of Wanaka, who has spent the past 10
years and $5 million pushing the project first suggested 16
years ago by the late Phillip Phillips, of Queenstown.
Mr Robertson told the Otago Daily Times he was
disappointed, disillusioned and mystified by the decision
announced by Conservation Minister Nick Smith yesterday
Riverstone's Fiordland Link Experience proposed a new link
between Queenstown and Milford Sound consisting of a 20km
boat excursion across Lake Wakatipu to Mt Nicholas Station, a
45km all-terrain vehicle ride to Kiwi Burn, a 43.8km monorail
ride to Te Anau Downs and a 90km coach journey to Milford
Dr Smith rejected the proposal because independent tourism
and financial analysis ''concluded it was not viable''.
Mr Robertson said the project could have gone ahead on
condition he proved it was viable.
''You can't go and get an expert right now to absolutely
guarantee economic viability.
''It's the wrong stage of the game. It's a hurdle a business
like us shouldn't have to jump yet.
''I will take the risk on whether I spend more money ... on
proving economic viability. I will do that.
''But I'm not going to do that until I know I have got a
He considered Dr Smith's decision-making process was
''flawed'' but accepted the decision brought the proposal to
''This is an end for us. We wouldn't be taking this any
Mr Robertson believed Te Anau businesses, in particular,
would be the losers.
''They should be crying, actually. If there was one thing
that would have helped Te Anau ... immensely it would be a
monorail trip to [Lake] Te Anau, delivering real people - not
people wanting a pee and a pie - delivering real people to
attractions in Te Anau.
''They don't actually really realise what they have lost.''
Dr Smith said yesterday the link would also have had ''a
significant impact on the area's flora, fauna and natural
In October last year, Dr Smith released advice from the
Department of Conservation and a hearing panel chaired by
commissioner Graeme Ayres that recommended he approve the
Forest and Bird Otago-Southland field officer Sue Maturin
said yesterday the monorail plans were unrealistic from the
''There is no way the applicant could have restored the
old-growth forest, tussock grasslands or wetlands the project
would have destroyed.
''It could also have been catastrophic for the bat
population,'' she said.
The Department of Conservation now needed to officially
recognise the area's natural values and upgrade the
protective status of the Snowdon Forest to ''save us all from
many of these sorts of expensive and time-consuming fights in
Southland Mayor Gary Tong said the proposal would have
brought few benefits for Te Anau or Southland.
''I did have grave concerns about the economics of this
project. This decision is good news for sustainable tourism
opportunities in the area, such as the Around the Mountains
Cycle Trail and the project at Mt Nicholas.''
The news was welcomed by Trish Fraser, spokeswoman for Enviro
Glenorchy - previously known as Glenorchy's Stop the Tunnel
group - which successfully lobbied against the proposed
Milford Dart tunnel.
''I'm absolutely delighted. It's fantastic news and I think
Nick Smith is to be congratulated on yet another good
''And the Save Fiordland group ... well done to them. They've
done a huge amount of work to stop this.''
Ms Fraser hoped the decision would put an end to such
proposals in national parks, which should be kept ''pure,
green and without development''.
Tourism Industry Association Queenstown hotels regional
chairwoman Penny Clark was also ''excited'' the proposal had
been turned down, as she personally supported the
Haast-Hollyford highway proposal.
''We know the drive into Milford is beautiful ... we could do
that down the West Coast and it would be magic for people. It
would give another route in and another route out.''
The Green Party said the decision was a victory for all New
Zealanders who stood up for the environment.
''National clearly didn't want to be attacking the
environment this close to the election,'' co-leader Metiria
''This is another case of New Zealanders standing up to
protect the places we love, and winning.''
Federated Mountain Clubs of New Zealand also applauded Dr
''We always had confidence that his thoughtful, engineering
approach would deliver the right answer ... his analysis is
spot on and matches our own conclusions,'' president Robin
''Our 17,000 members are pretty happy right now, and so we
can put our war chest away and do something useful with the
money instead. That is a great relief.
''Too often, dumb ideas go too far and waste everyone's time
before they get stopped because they were never going to be
Labour's conservation spokeswoman, Ruth Dyson, was delighted
the monorail had been ''stopped in its tracks''.
''From an economic and conservation perspective, this is a
victory for common sense.''
Dr Smith said the ''door is still open'' for other proposals
for access in Fiordland.