Labour MPs to visit tunnel opponents

SUE FEA IN QUEENSTOWN
Last updated 05:00 04/10/2012

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Labour conservation spokeswoman Ruth Dyson and Labour MP Trevor Mallard will visit Glenorchy on Wednesday to support residents opposed to the planned Milford Dart tunnel.

The pair, who may also be accompanied by Labour's tourism spokesman Rino Tirikatene, are keen to visit the proposed entrance to the tunnel in the Routeburn Valley and meet concerned residents.

Ms Dyson said yesterday they would spend the whole day on the issue. "We thought we should come and meet them and see it from the locals' point of view. We want to hear from the local people as well."

Unfortunately the Government had "washed its hands" of the issue delegating it to the Department of Conservation, she said.

The decision in principle for the concession should never have been granted.

"The minister's just stood back as if it's nothing to do with her.

"It breached the general policy statement and the National Park management plan, so it should've been declined."

Ms Dyson said both she and Mr Mallard were very familiar with the area having spent a lot of time there during the past 30 years.

Many tourism operators also opposed the proposal and Ms Dyson said there was "a huge amount of opposition".

Stop the Tunnel spokeswoman Trish Fraser said they welcomed the visit and said a petition, presented to Parliament last month, now had 27,163 signatures.

"We have several knowledgeable people from this area who will escort them to the Routeburn and our group is planning a meeting with them."

Ms Fraser said the group was open to any other ideas the members may have on how to raise more awareness about the tunnel and get some "political traction" that would hopefully end in DOC saying "no" to the proposed concession.

Ms Fraser said her group believed an independent panel had made its recommendations and reported to DOC last month.

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- The Southland Times

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