Tunnel submission response noteworthy

The Department of Conservation has received 356 submissions on the controversial Milford Dart Tunnel proposal to date, with submissions closing on Monday.

Doc spokesman Reuben Williams, of Wellington, said yesterday the concession application had attracted one of the biggest responses from the public in recent times.

However, no analysis was available yet on the number of submitters opposing, supporting or neutral. The department would complete analysis on all submissions after the closing date, but there was no saying how long that might take or at what point the information would become publicly available, Mr Williams said.

That information would be released some time between the close of submissions and the hearing date, he said.

While no hearing date for the proposal had been set, Mr Williams was confident it would occur this year.

In November, Doc agreed in principle to grant consent to Milford Dart Ltd for the $150 million, 11.3km bus-only tunnel, which would link the existing Routeburn Rd and Hollyford Rd, under sections of the Mt Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks.

If approved, the proposal, first mooted in 2005, would halve the nine-hour return travel time for visitors travelling by bus from Queenstown to Milford Sound.

Last month, 100 people turned out to a meeting in Glenorchy to discuss the proposal, unanimously voting to oppose the tunnel.

Glenorchy Community Association member Mark Hasselman told the Otago Daily Times yesterday about 20 people turned out to a free seminar in Glenorchy on Monday night aimed at helping people who wanted to make a submission on the proposal.

Environmental lawyer Kristy Rusher, of Stratum Environmental Law, held one-on-one sessions with some community members, offering tips and advice on how to make submissions count.

Mr Hasselman said Ms Rusher helped people understand the process of making a submission and ensuring every submission was "to the point and worthwhile".

"It was helping people to break down the barriers and to link the submissions to statutory Government Acts ... rather than just saying 'I don't like it'."

tracey.roxburgh@odt.co.nz

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