Tourist applications unaffected by reshuffle

The dumping of Kate Wilkinson as Conservation Minister - she was replaced by Nick Smith last month - is not expected to have any implications for two contentious concession applications for commercial operations in the Fiordland and Mt Aspiring National Parks.

In late 2011 Ms Wilkinson announced her intention to grant concessions to both Milford Dart Ltd and Riverstone Holdings Ltd to create the Dart Passage Tunnel and the Fiordland Link Experience, respectively.

Her announcement triggered a public process, in which 1235 submissions were received on the Dart Passage Tunnel and another 318 people submitted on the monorail proposal.

Hearings for both projects were held separately in March and April last year before submissions were summarised.

A recommendation was then to be prepared and forwarded to delegated decision-maker Sue Cosford.

Department of Conservation media adviser Reuben Williams, of Wellington, said yesterday ''at this stage'' the announcement of Dr Smith as Conservation Minister was not expected to have any implications for the process and it was ''business as usual''.

''We've been interacting with the applicants. No decision has been made.

''There is no set time frame ... we are not sure when the decision will be made.

''We are working through the process.''

MDL hopes to establish an 11.6km commercial bus tunnel between the Routeburn valley, in Mt Aspiring National Park, and the Hollyford Valley in the Fiordland National Park, at a cost of about $150 million.

Riverstone proposes a catamaran trip across Lake Wakatipu to Mt Nicholas, followed by an all-terrain vehicle trip to the Kiwi Burn, and a 43km monorail journey to Te Anau Downs on Lake Te Anau. Its project would cost an estimated $175 million.

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