Fiordland protest aimed at minister

NICOLE MCDOUGALL AND NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 02/07/2012
Spokeswoman for the Save Fiordland group Daphne Taylor and Te Anau identity Ray Willett
BARRY HARCOURT/Fairfax NZ

SIGN OF THE TIMES: Spokeswoman for the Save Fiordland group Daphne Taylor and Te Anau identity Ray Willett with a protest sign that will be placed prior to the visit of the Conservation Minister.

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A large protest opposing the proposed construction of a tunnel and a monorail in Fiordland is planned for the arrival of the Conservation Minister this week.

Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson is travelling to Fiordland this week following an invitation from the Fiordland Marine Guardians to meet with them and take a trip on Doubtful Sound.

Save Fiordland spokeswoman Daphne Taylor said yesterday the protest was about saving the area from inappropriate development and to try to influence the minister before she made a decision to grant or decline applications for the construction of the Milford Dart tunnel and the Fiordland Link Experience monorail.

Several residents had already made submissions but the process was continuing, she said.

Southland District Council mayor Frana Cardno said yesterday people were unhappy about the proposals.

Protesting would be an opportunity for them to show how passionately they felt about it, she said. "I think people feel they have to do something because they feel so frustrated."

Save Fiordland has asked the public to line the road at 8am on Wednesday from Kingsgate as far down to Manapouri as possible, put signs in the windows of their vehicles and bring placards or banners.

The Save Fiordland group also planned to make a special presentation to the minister.

"This is about all of us and we're working on behalf of our kids, of New Zealanders, of people from all nations to protect this stunning environment and its inhabitants – it's what world heritage means," the flier says.

A community meeting to raise the profile of the campaign was held in Te Anau last week.

More than 300 people attended and carried a motion to formally incorporate the Save Fiordland campaign.

Save Central campaigner and spokesman Graye Shattky told attendants that continuing the campaign could be a long and costly battle.

"In my experience joining a campaign is easy. Continuing the fight is the hard part."

The meeting was told that potential legal action – such as a judicial review on a possible decision by the Department of Conservation to grant the concessions or action through the Environment Court to oppose resource consent – could cost more than $100,000.

Southland Conservation Board chairwoman Viv Shaw said the board would welcome a judicial review if DOC approved the developments. The board submitted against the projects because it felt the developments contravened the Fiordland National Park Management Plan, she said.

A judicial review would help make clear what the legislative role of the FNPMP and Conservation Act were and create some consistency in their application, Mrs Shaw said.

Daphne Taylor said at the meeting that with the backing of the Te Anau community, the next step would be to establish an executive committee and elect a chair for the group.

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- The Southland Times

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