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No Milford tunnel

Written By: - Date published: 3:53 pm, July 17th, 2013 - 39 comments
Categories: Conservation, national - Tags: , ,

Nice to be able to congratulate the Nats on an environmental decision for a change! One News reports…

Minister rejects proposed Milford Tunnel project

The proposal to build a tunnel through the Fiordland and Mt Aspiring National Parks has been declined, Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith announced today.

The five-metre diameter, 11.3-kilometre long, one lane bus tunnel was proposed between the Dart Valley, adjacent to the Routeburn Track, through to Hollyford Valley was first proposed by Milford Dart Ltd in 2005.

“I am declining this tunnel proposal because the environmental impacts are significant and beyond what is appropriate in two of New Zealand’s most spectacular National Parks and a World Heritage Area,” he said.


39 comments on “No Milford tunnel”

  1. fambo 1

    Blow me down with a feather!

  2. Binders full of women 2

    50:50 on the Fiordland Link? .. Cat>4WD bus>monorail>bus decision in Sept

  3. Adrian 3

    Nan ! Shonkey just got a real good deal on a 2nd hand monorail from Springfield and Skyshitty is going to operate it. No kickbacks to see here. move on.

    • Tinshed 3.1

      Oh FFS, maybe, just maybe, Nick Smith made the decision based on the facts and actually wanted to make the decision based on what was best for New Zealand. I know this is a strange concept but hey, let’s assume this is the case. Yeah, yeah, I know about realpolitik and we all very sophisticated here and understand the true nature of power, but I am prepared to put aside my cynicism and say this was the right decision made by a good person. Strange for the Nats, I know.

      • Peter 3.1.1

        Yes, he made a damned good decision, and deserves some serious credit for doing so.

  4. richard 4

    The cynic in me says that the decision was made after focus group polling rather than for reasons prick says.

    • Roy 4.1

      No, that’s the realist in you that you hear, not the cynic.

      • Wolf 4.1.1

        Cynic. If this project was approved, there are several groups that already had plans in place, and have the money to take it to Judicial / Ministerial Review. Given the legislative framework (Conservation Act, National Parks Act etc) there is a better than 50/50 chance that the review would have succeeded. Thus the correct, “just” decision has been made.

  5. RedLogix 5

    This’ll save me lying down in front of a few bulldozers!!!

    Ultimately the tunnel had to fail because it was always going to be a private asset for private profit in a purely public space … it was never going to be open to the public.

  6. Peter 6

    It was a long hard fight from a lot of people, who largely worked behind the scenes in the Deep South, and with little interest from North Island media. Believe it or not, TVNZ have actually refused to run the story tonight, because they can’t find anyone in the tourism industry “upset” enough to give the counter angle. What does that tell you?

    As for the monorail, in the immortal words of Homer Simpson – “I call the big one bitey”.

  7. Rosetinted 7

    Crripes. I didn’t think that would happen. I have been listening to it for a while and trying to understand its pros and cons. But the other day a spokesperson said that it would be a private tunnel in Milford and only specially built buses of the firm would use it so it wouldn’t aid the ordinary Nzr or tourist from outside the firm’s clientele. It wasn’t on. And we aren’t Switzerland with huge numbers of people lining up to go on funiculars or whatever. Tourists have to take us as just plain folksy types that haven’t got every gadget or machine known to mankind but where (hopefully) they can get to see some beautiful places with No Helicopters within hearing.

    Hey Peter you sound annoyed – they just want some emotion, something to build some drama and – important voice – controversy on. Invite Tv to see you do a little war dance on behalf of saving NZ beautiful assets. Looking forward to seeing you tonight hey!

    • weka 7.1

      This is a major conveservation issue, and a major win for conservationists. It’s also a significant decision by the Minister that sets precedents. TVNZ should be covering it.

      • Peter Wilson 7.1.1

        Lol. Some on this blog would say im always annoyed. But no, ive fought this tunnel since day dot and I’m enjoying a single malt of success now. As are the rest of my colleagues in FMC.

        Everyone watch tv3

    • Rich 7.2

      huge numbers of people lining up to go on funiculars or whatever

      Except in Wellington when a cruise ship’s in and I need to get to Kelburn and back in my lunchtime. Don’t see the attraction, it really isn’t all that interesting and the ski down is very average.

  8. Sosoo 8

    Nick Smith is usually pretty sound on environmental issues IIRC. One of the few relatively competent ministers. Shame that he’s in the party of environmental Neanderthals.

  9. clashman 9

    Monorail it is then. I just can’t see them saying no to both.

  10. Chooky 10

    This is very good news from Nick Smith!!!…… and congratulations to those who fought long and hard against the proposed tunnel…..I never could understand why people/tourists wanted to be in beautiful remote areas instantly and with ease…..taking lots of time getting there and with effort is part of the experience , the beauty and the rarity.

    Lets hope it is also “No” to the monorail.

    • weka 10.1

      It’s all about the money, and the push came from vested interests, not people wanting to visit Fiordland.

    • RedLogix 10.2

      If I had to pick between the two options I would go with the monorail. A better route, much more fun than a tunnel and potentially less environmental impact if they can avoid carving out a road alongside it for maintenance.

      The most interesting objection that Smith identified is who carries the risk if the commercial venture fails.

      • Peter 10.2.1

        Hmm. I’ve followed this project closely since its inception, when incidentally I was working for the Department in that neck of the woods.

        The monorail will involve a 20 metre wide bulldozed strip consisting of the track itself and an access road following it, along a swathe of about 50km of virgin forest. It’s arguably greater impact than the tunnel.

        The issue in question is that the monorail barely touches any national park, and that the planning document for the area – the Mainland Southland -West Otago CMS, basically authorises it. It also has requiring authority in the Southland District Plan.

        So Smith may have a hard time declining the concession. It may become an RMA battle instead, where other grounds, such as the environmental impact, and economic impact can be considered. It’s a funny world where the RMA protects conservation estate, but that’s the way these things fall, when the plans are written badly.

        Incidently, DOC have just released a series of new CMSs, all are seriously watered down and offer far less protection against eyesores such as these. I’d urge you all to submit against them…

        • Graeme

          “The monorail will involve a 20 metre wide bulldozed strip consisting of the track itself and an access road following it, along a swathe of about 50km of virgin forest. It’s arguably greater impact than the tunnel.”

          The cleared strip would be more like 100m wide in reality. It would have to be 1.5 x the height of the tallest trees (say 30m for a mature Red Beech) on each side. Also, the surrounding bush would have to be “managed” for quite a distance either side to prevent knock downs in high winds.

          This thing will be very intolerant of trees landing on it and the risk will have to be aggressively managed to allow acceptable.

          There would be less impact, at least through the bush sections, with a road. But maybe this is the intention. The business case for the monorail has so many logic holes it’s hard to see how it can attract finance, so there has to be something else going on here.

  11. Chooky 11

    Yes agreed….. very ugly souless business people and not environmentalists or ordinary people at all….

  12. tsmithfield 12

    I heard him talking on ZB. Very sound reasons for him declining which made good sense.

  13. jaymam 13

    Surely a monorail or gondola will have the same objections as a tunnel except for the dirt out of the tunnel.

    • Wolf 13.1

      Same objections, different dirt. The land which the monorail is proposed to pass over, although it is protected conservation estate, it has a lower level of protection than a national park. But yes, by and large the same arguments apply. If anything the monorail has a greater environmental footprint. As for the Gondola, that is proposed to pass mostly over Ngai Tahu land, depending on where it is specifically routed, so different again.

      • Peter 13.1.1

        The monotrail involves the clearfelling of a 20 metre wide (track + access road that the bastards call a cycletrail) for about 50km. Pretty large impact if you ask me. You’d certainly see it on a satellite…

        Maybe we should all learn from the Simpsons about why monorails, especially those powered by renewable energy (as this one is!) are bad ideas.

        Or call the big possum living in the brake cupboard Bitey.

        • DavidC

          and hunters cant hunt within 2 kms of the monorail because of fear of stray bullets … so there is a vast area taken out of the hunting grounds.

        • RedLogix

          The monotrail involves the clearfelling of a 20 metre wide (track + access road that the bastards call a cycletrail) for about 50km.

          A clear-felled 20m wide corridor seem entirely plausible and while I’m open to to be corrected here; at first reading that isn’t what they seem to be proposing.


          Don’t get me wrong, I’m as sceptical around unconstrained commercial development in our backcountry as you are … but I don’t think it’s reasonable to ideologically slam the door shut on every proposal either.

          • Peter

            They’ve missed quite a bit of the buffers and the road width (necessary to construct the thing) off that proposal. That was one of the objections to it.

            The other issue I have with the proposal is that it’ll take longer to get to Milford by monorail than by road. Here’s how it works:

            Drive/fly to Queenstown
            Get boat over Lake Wakatipu
            Drive on a bumpy road up Mt Nicholas station to the Kiwiburn
            Ride monorail to Te Anau Downs
            Get on a bus to Milford
            Get off the bus at Milford, onto a cruise boat
            Get off your cruise boat, back onto your bus
            Off the bus, back onto the monorail
            Onto another bus
            Off that bus, onto a boat
            Finally, 15 hours later, and 9 changes of transport mode later, you are in Queenstown!

            Real efficient!

          • weka

            “but I don’t think it’s reasonable to ideologically slam the door shut on every proposal either.”

            Why not? Conservation estate is conservation estate. The only reason this is even being considered is because of the sly shift in the past few decades whereby the recreation aspect of the legislation has been co-opted by big tourism. There is no good reason for the monorail, other than making money, and as such it’s just another face of the neoliberal agenda (everything is for sale if you can manage the economics). We should be leaving the backcountry, and much of the front country, alone.

  14. BrucetheMoose 14

    Seems they ackshully listened to good reasoning and put the general public concerns before the almighty $$$$$$ for a change. It may also be partly a case of “Let’s not push our luck”.

  15. millsy 15


    Our national parks are for the recreational use of New Zealanders, not playgrounds for rich tourists. The developers should fuck off and find somewhere else to play with their toys.

    • Winston Smith 15.1

      I think this is a bad move, I think this opens the door to the Haast-Holyford highway which will cause even more environmental damage.

      I think the tunnel would have been the better option

      • Peter 15.1.1

        Not a chance. The Haast Hollyford road isn’t economic, would cost about $2 billion to build, and the govt sure aint paying. The company proposing to build it is also in serious strife, with its chairman writing attack letters almost daily in West Coast newspapers. It also just got fined by the Environment Court.

  16. tracey 16

    yup. softening us up for the monorail. simpsons anyone?

  17. captain hook 17

    the greedy bastards just cant leave anything decent alone.
    they like a gang of noddies with a leggo set.
    making the world over in their own plastic image.
    100% pure shite.

  18. Steve Wrathall 18

    What’s so terrible about 0.5 million m3 of broken rock? 12 million m3 fell off Mt Cook in 1991. And it didn’t even apply for a frikkin Resource Consent.

  19. Graeme 19

    Looks like the toys are getting airtime already, not a good sign…


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