Turn down monorail proposal, Smith told

CHE BAKER IN QUEENSTOWN
Last updated 05:00 22/07/2013

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A group opposing the Milford Dart tunnel has asked people to help persuade Conservation Minister Nick Smith to also turn down a proposal to build a monorail in Fiordland.

After celebrating the Government's decision last week to reject a proposal for a bus tunnel from Glenorchy to Milford Sound, the Save Fiordland group is urging New Zealanders to voice their objections to what they call "another destructive transport proposal" in the area - the Fiordland Link Experience.

The proposal includes a 20km catamaran journey from Queenstown to Mt Nicholas Station, a backcountry all-terrain drive and a 41km monorail ride through Snowdon Forest and farmland to Te Anau Downs.

Dr Smith, who last week declined the tunnel, is expected to announce his decision on the monorail by the end of the year.

Save Fiordland yesterday called on people to contact Dr Smith, pleading with him to turn down the proposal.

Group spokesman Bill Jarvie, of Te Anau, said "people need to remind the minister he is our servant and he is there to protect our conservation values".

The holding company applying for the concession was principally owned by the Infinity Investment Group, a former owner of the Pegasus Town which was forced into receivership a year ago.

Infinity Investment Group managing director Bob Robertson said while the tunnel was a competitor to the proposal, the proposed transport link did not go through the Fiordland National Park.

The proposal, which had been in the pipeline for 16 years, was "eco-friendly" and had little to no impact on the Department of Conservation land it went through, Mr Robertson said.

"It won't ruin a national park and if it would I wouldn't being doing it" he said.

Up to 1 million passengers a year would be able to use the link.

"It's an experience. It's a journey. We need something tourists can enjoy," he said.

However, Mr Jarvie said the monorail could have a greater impact than the tunnel.

The plan was a "swathe cut through paradise" which would destruct the world heritage environment fauna and flora and was not a public eco-transport scheme, Mr Jarvie said.

University of Canterbury tourism expert Dr Girish Prayag said the monorail conflicted with what the New Zealand tourism brand stood for in the international and domestic markets.

"The monorail plan detracts from the clean and green image that New Zealand is selling abroad.

"When more people come to see, the infrastructure has to follow. Inevitably, economic benefits will take priority over conservation issues, especially with New Zealand tourism growth stagnating," Dr Prayag said.

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