MP encourages groups to 'put heat on'

Stop the Tunnel members Leslie van Gelder (left) and Trish Fraser (centre) are joined by the...
Stop the Tunnel members Leslie van Gelder (left) and Trish Fraser (centre) are joined by the Labour Party's spokeswoman for conservation, Ruth Dyson. Photo by Christina McDonald.
A crowd of about 30 at the Glenorchy Hall were told yesterday their fight to stop a proposed tunnel and monorail is "one of the biggest issues we have seen" and should ignite the same national passion as the past proposal to mine national parks.

Labour's spokeswoman for conservation, Ruth Dyson, and Labour MP Trevor Mallard visited Glenorchy yesterday to meet impassioned locals and representatives from the Stop the Tunnel and Save Fiordland groups.

Ms Dyson told those at the meeting she did not think the issue of whether to approve the projects - an 11.3km tunnel from the Routeburn Rd to Mt Aspiring National Park and a 43km monorail from the Mararoa River Valley to Te Anau Downs - was "high-profile enough" in Parliament.

Following her visit, she said she had a range of new questions she intended to ask various National ministers and would do as much as she could to keep the debate alive.

She said both projects should never have been approved in principle and because they had there was "a loophole somewhere in the process we have to close".

"Now it's on that path we have to do everything to get it off that path ... you can't put future generations through this."

The Milford Dart Tunnel would reduce driving time to Milford Sound and be restricted to commercial buses and Ms Dyson questioned what sort of tourism that would attract.

The "fly-in, fly-out tourism" was "not what this part of the country is about."

She challenged the crowd to "get some heat on" Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson because "at the moment she is walking away from one of the biggest issues we have seen".

Stop the Tunnel spokeswoman Trish Fraser said it was difficult to keep the issue in the public arena, though the long process also came with the advantage that "the longer it takes, the more noise we can make".

A final decision was expected before year's end and Mrs Fraser said if the projects were given the green light, the groups would ask for a judicial review.


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