Minister to decide project fate

03:45, Feb 24 2013

Conservation minister Nick Smith will decide whether proposals for the Milford Dart Tunnel and Fiordland Link Experience go ahead.

The decisions were to have been made by the Department of Conservation.Dr Smith said he had decided, given the scale of the projects and the huge public interest in them, it was not appropriate for the decision to be delegated to a Conservation Department official.

''These are public lands and it is proper that these decisions are made by a publicly elected and accountable official,'' he said.

The decisions would be difficult and he had taken advice on ensuring a robust process, he said.

''Parks and reserves are much loved areas of New Zealand set aside for conservation and recreation. There is a particularly high threshold for projects in our National Parks. However, New Zealand also needs jobs and economic development.''

Dr Smith said he would be advised by the Department of Conservation and expected to receive the department's reports on the Milford Dart tunnel soon and the Fiordland Link Experience in a few months.

He would also visit the affected areas and meet with the commissioners who heard the public submissions, and planned to meet with the project applicants and consult the New Zealand Conservation Authority before making a decision.

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