Monorail proponent slams RMA

New Zealand tourism risks becoming predictable if initiatives are not supported by the Government, the backer of a tourist link between Lake Wakatipu and Milford says.

Riverstone Holdings Ltd director Bob Robertson told the Otago Daily Times the country needed two or three ''significant tourism adventures'' to be developed, or risk ''slipping further down the OECD chain''.

Mr Robertson and John Beattie are behind the Fiordland Link Experience, which proposes a $150 million, 43km monorail, 29km of which would be through conservation land, from Kiwi Burn, near Mavora Lakes, through Snowdon Forest to Te Anau Downs.

The application is being considered by Conservation Minister Nick Smith, who this week refused concession to Milford Dart Ltd to construct a $180 million, 11.3km commercial bus tunnel through the Fiordland and Mt Aspiring National Parks.

Neither MDL managing director Tom Elworthy nor director Michael Sleigh returned calls yesterday. However, it is understood the company will not appeal the minister's decision.

While that project was first mooted eight years ago, Mr Robertson said the monorail proposal had been in the pipeline for about 17 years and Riverstone Holdings had worked on it for the past eight. To date, it had cost about $5 million, funded by the proponents.

''No banks will fund that when there's all that uncertainty,'' Mr Robertson said.

While he believed significant new tourism attractions needed to be progressed, the Resource Management Act process was stymieing that growth.

''The RMA is [putting] nails into our tourism coffins.

''You can't have one million people going to a hut on a hill - what are we going to do to facilitate a million tourists?''The Government needs to think about it and look at those entrepreneurs who are prepared to put their money where their mouth is to develop sustainable infrastructure.''

Mr Robertson said he would like to think the minister's decision on the proposed Fiordland Link Experience, which would include a 20km catamaran trip across Lake Wakatipu to Mt Nicholas, and a 45km trip on all-terrain vehicles on back-country roads to the Kiwi Burn Monorail terminus, would be ''a positive decision for New Zealand Inc''.

''It's going to lift our tourism experience. That is going to help New Zealand, but we also need two or three other ventures to be able to give people a box to tick to say ... 'I think we'll go to New Zealand because there's this, this and this that I want to do'.

''Seventy percent of New Zealand tourists are repeat ... they want something new to do.

''If we don't develop new things, we're going to get what we've got - less tourism, less economic growth and less jobs.''



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