No tunnel decision yet

The Department of Conservation "is not at the decision stage yet" over a proposed $170 million tunnel linking Queenstown and Milford Sound, which could cut travel time by two hours.

Doc Southland community relations manager Martin Kessick said this week that an amended application was still being assessed on advice from the Southland Conservation Board, which would meet later this month.

"We are not at the decision stage yet. We're still at the stage of assessing the application and getting advice from the Southland Conservation Board," Mr Kessick said.

He said the board's advice to Doc would be factored into a report that would then go to a chief decision-maker, once all information was reviewed.

"Their's no decision on the decision-maker yet," he said.

Candidates for the adjudicating post include Mr Kessick himself, the Southland conservator Barry Hanson or possibly Otago conservator Marian van der Goes.

Christchurch-based Milford Dart applied to the Southland conservancy for a concession to build and operate the "Dart passage," a 10.2km-long, 5m-diameter, single-lane tunnel for buses, in December 2009.

The Milford Dart managing director, Tom Elworthy, said he thought a decision was "getting close".

"It's imminent in that the application's complete and a large amount of the assessment's been done. The ball's in their court."

Going on advice from lawyers, he said he was optimistic that the project, which would take three years to build, would go ahead because it met all relevant compliance requirements including park management plans for Mt Aspiring and Fiordland.


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