It is not too late to stop the development of a tunnel and a monorail in Fiordland.
Those were the words from Southland District Mayor and Save Fiordland member Frana Cardno when the Fiordland community braved a freezing morning in Te Anau yesterday and confronted Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson.
Mrs Cardno and members of the Save Fiordland group met Ms Wilkinson before she boarded a boat for Doubtful Sound as a guest of the Fiordland Marine Guardians.
"No decision has definitely been made and this is an ideal time for people to have their voice," Mrs Cardno said.
With national media coverage of Ms Wilkinson's visit to Fiordland, Mrs Cardno said fighting to preserve Fiordland's world heritage status was a national and international issue.
Ms Wilkinson told about 100 protesters, who greeted her arrival with chants of "Save our Park", she admired the stoicism of the Southland people.
"It's great the community is so passionate about their backdoor," she said.
Listening to the community was important but any decision must be left to the processes in place within the Conservation Department, she said.
"It's an interesting process because an intent to grant a concession has to be made to trigger public consultation, and that can be a point of confusion," she said.
"Listening to everyone is part of my job and it's an important part of making the correct decision," she said.
Save Fiordland spokeswoman Daphne Taylor presented Ms Wilkinson with the Fiordland National Park Management Plan and the Conservation Management Strategy. "Just in case you haven't read these," Ms Taylor told her.
The process to grant consent for the Milford Dart tunnel and Fiordland Link Experience should never have started if the documents had been followed, Ms Taylor said.
Barry Scott, of Te Anau-based Carran Scott Contracting, drove a grader to the protest and said the developments would take business from Te Anau and damage the community.
Hotel employee Angela Monteith said Te Anau would become a ghost town if the developments were approved.
Protesters greeted Ms Wilkinson along the Te Anau-to-Manapouri road as she went to board her cruise. She stopped to acknowledge and listen to some waving signs as she passed.
Manapouri resident Lance Shaw said any decision approving the projects made a mockery of the FNPMP and CMS.
Another large group of protesters ensured Ms Wilkinson got a loud sendoff when she slipped out of a foggy Pearl Harbour.
After returning from Doubtful Sound, Ms Wilkinson said she was heartened to see the passion of the protesters for New Zealand, but was noncommittal about the effect it would have. "The decision has still to be made and is going through consideration," she said.
Some of the protest group had talked of a judicial review of the decision when it is made, but Ms Wilkinson said it was far too early to consider that.
"A judicial review does not happen just because one side or the other does not agree ... We are very careful not to give any predetermination of the decision."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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