Hypocrisy exposed, says tunnel proponent

GRANT BRYANT IN QUEENSTOWN
Last updated 05:00 19/01/2013

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The Southland District Council's perceived support of a Haast-Hollyford toll road but blanket opposition to a private bus tunnel linking Queenstown to Milford Sound smacks of high level hypocrisy, a tunnel backer says.

Milford-Dart Ltd managing director Tom Elworthy told The Southland Times the proposed $150 million private bus tunnel, which would be built beneath Mt Aspiring National Park, would need a small area of bush cleared yet the road would require much more work.

"If we get clearance to build the tunnel we'll be cutting down four hectares of trees, but the toll road will need hundreds of hectares of trees cut, plus bridges built.

"None of the people in Te Anau who have objected to the tunnel on the basis that it would put the Unesco world heritage status of the area at risk have said a word about this 300km plus road that would destroy far more above ground terrain, and that hypocrisy is laughable and ridiculous."

The hypocrisy was exposed when the toll road's backers had a "positive" closed-door meeting with the council last month, he said.

On December 18 Southland District Mayor Frana Cardno and her councillors had their first meeting with the developers of the proposed Haast-Hollyford road, Westland District Property Ltd, and more discussions are planned.

Westland District Property chairman Durham Havill emerged from the meeting saying he was happy with its results.

"We came away with much more positive support than we expected after our plan was presented . . . ," he said.

The high level hypocrisy was evident because Milford-Dart had only one meeting with Ms Cardno in 2006, and she had made it clear she was not supportive of the tunnel, or any infrastructure development in the area, which now put her in a difficult position, Mr Elworthy said.

"She said then that she didn't want the tunnel or any roads, but since the proposal for the toll road has come along it seems she's said ‘lets talk' because the road would be good for Te Anau."

However, long-time Te Anau resident Ms Cardno said the meeting with Westland District Property took place during the last council meeting of the year, and suffered from time constraints.

"Plane flights were cancelled and there was a huge agenda at the meeting, and we had to cut the presentation by the Westland people short. We have not shown support of the project or even debated it, but further meetings will need to happen for us to get the full picture."

grant.bryant@stl.co.nz

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