Doubtful Sound operator self-imposes conditions

Doubtful Sound. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery.
Doubtful Sound. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery.
A tourism operator will be able to continue its boat business in Doubtful Sound after volunteering consent conditions to minimise its environmental impact.

A hearing for Real Journeys Ltd’s coastal permit consent renewal was held in January, and there was talk of possible increased trip numbers affecting the area’s wilderness and remoteness.

The permit allowed the operating of the 44m Fiordland Navigator, two tender vessels and up to 30 kayaks for day trips and back country trip activities in Fiordland, including Doubtful Sound.

Commissioner Sharon McGarry, in her hearing decision this week, concluded the environmental effects would be no more than minor following applicant-volunteered consent conditions.

She said it would ensure there was no increase in the existing level of commercial surface water activities undertaken by the applicant in Doubtful Sound.

An increase of trips in First Arm from 12 to 31 times each month was originally requested.

In a report for the hearing, Environment Southland consents officer George Gericke said the proposed change would mean an overallocation of trips within the Doubtful Sound complex under the operative Regional Coastal Plan for Southland 2013.

However, it was explained at the hearing the consented-for figures did not reflect the actual number of vessels used at one time.

After the hearing, Real Journeys and Go Orange general manager Paul Norris confirmed the firms would volunteer conditions to mitigate effects.

This included to not overnight two vessels in the same area unless necessary, as well as to install a mooring in First Arm. The installation would be subject to a resource consent.

In her decision, Ms McGarry said as there was not a given the mooring consent would be granted, she did not balance positive effects against the assessment of adverse effects.

The granted consent allows up to 85 passengers plus crew for back country trips and up to 90 passengers plus crew for day trips.

An exception to this is during a Milford Rd closure, when Milford Sound passengers are diverted to Doubtful Sound or when the vessel operated under another of its permits.

It is then allowed to take, on day trips, up to 150 passengers plus crew.

Real Journeys originally requested a consent term of 25 years; a term of 12 years was granted.

Two similar applications were to be heard yesterday, from Fiordland Cruises Ltd and Offspring Travel Ltd.

laura.smith@odt.co.nz

Comments

Seems a reasonable outcome to preserve this beautiful area but enable people to view how wonderful it is

 

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