Tunnel hearing starts

Submitters have their say

Last updated 11:08 12/03/2012
stimes 12mar2012 milford dart
BARRY HARCOURT/Fairfax NZ
Milford Dart directors Michael Slee and Tom Elworthy arriving at the public submissions hearing for the Dart Passage Tunnel in Te Anau this morning.

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A Southland District Council senior policy analyst says the  construction of a tunnel means tourists will miss the scenery of a national park for a long, dark hole.

Council senior policy analyst Wayne Heerdegen is one of the latest speakers at the hearing for public submissions on the Milford Dart tunnel proposal, which started in Te Anau this morning.

"There are places we seek to allow ourselves to still be placed in an aspect of wilderness,'' he said.

"You actually can experience the national park. This is a tunnel, it's not experiencing a national park, it's a long dark hole. It's not even interesting like a cave with stalagmites and stalactites,'' Mr Heerdegen said.

Venture Southland group manager enterprise and strategic projects Steve Canny this morning said the Milford Rd was regarded as one of the key touring routes in New Zealand.

"There is certainly no evidence to show there is dissatisfaction with the existing services at Milford from a visitor's perspective,'' he said.

It would also appear tourists had no desire to travel long distances underground, he said.

The Te Anau Community Board, Southland Conservation Board and two other submissions are still to be heard today.

The first submission presented earlier this morning compared the proposed tunnel to mining national parks.

Southland District mayor Frana Cardno's personal submission was presented by Rachel Cockburn as Mrs Cardno is out of the country.

Tunnelling was effectively mining, and public outcry over the proposal to mine schedule four land had shown the public had no stomach for mining and tunnelling our national parks, Mrs Cardno's submission says.

She was also concerned the proposed tunnel would compromise Fiordland National Park's status as a World Heritage site.

Another six submissions are expected to be heard by hearing chairman Paul Green, who is a representative of the Director General of Conservation.

Plans for the 11.3km tunnel were unveiled in 2005 by Christchurch-based project developer Milford Dart Ltd.

If given the go ahead, the proposal will open up a new route to Milford Sound, taking tourists around the northern tip of Lake Wakatipu via Glenorchy then south through the Routeburn and Hollyford Valleys. Te Anau would be bypassed.

The plans have polarised communities in the lakes district, with some hailing the project as a way to boost the economy, while others fear it will negatively impact the area.

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The company's directors have claimed the tunnel could contribute tens of millions of dollars to the New Zealand economy by freeing up tourists for an extra half day of activities.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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