Next stop court in anti-tunnel fight

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 25/06/2012

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The fight against the proposed Milford Dart Tunnel and Fiordland monorail will be ramped up when the Save Fiordland campaign is formalised at a meeting in Te Anau tomorrow night.

Bringing together a cross-section of residents, community leaders, businesses and outdoor enthusiasts, organisers said they were looking to incorporate the group to make it a legal body.

The conservation minister has already given notice of her intention to grant concessions for the Milford Dart tunnel and the Fiordland Link Experience monorail, but Save Fiordland spokeswoman Daphne Taylor said the group would be prepared to create history and take the Conservation Department to court.

Previous judicial reviews had been under the Resource Management Act, but never under the Conservation Act, Ms Taylor said.

The campaign would set a precedent if legal action were taken under the Conservation Act, she said.

"The tunnel and monorail proposals represent clear breaches of the fundamental principles of wilderness protection that the Conservation and National Parks Acts and Management Plans, along with World Heritage Status obligations, are supposed to protect," she said. "There is a real case for taking legal action against DOC."

DOC was supposed to be the principal steward in this regard but t was ignoring its legal mandate and facilitating concessions for reckless proposals, Ms Taylor said.

Save Fiordland had looked at past campaigns for guidance, Ms Taylor said.

"We needed to have an organisation that could act as a legal entity," she said. "This would be similar to the Save Manapouri and Save Central campaigns."

Both groups effectively halted development by acting as a formalised body, Ms Taylor said.

Southland District Mayor Frana Cardno also supported legal action as she added her weight to the campaign.

If the department does not give consideration to public submissions made and turn around its decision, the next step would be for the community to seek a judicial review of the process, Mrs Cardno said

DOC spokesman Rory Newsam said the department was not in a position to comment on the Save Fiordland campaign.

"The decision process is formally under way and it would not be appropriate for DOC to make further comments until the final decision has been made on both the tunnel and monorail developments," he said.

The decisions were still "some time off", Mr Newsam said. The Save Fiordland public meeting will be held at the Distinction Te Anau Hotel on the lakefront tomorrow at 7.30pm.

ENVIRONMENTAL WARS

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SAVE MANAPOURI

A campaign between 1959 and 1972 to prevent the raising of the levels of lakes Manapouri and Te Anau as part of the construction of the Manapouri Power Project.

SAVE CENTRAL An umbrella group for individuals and environmental groups opposed to the $2 billion Meridian Energy wind farm project in Central Otago.

- The Southland Times

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