OPINION: Should the world's longest monorail ride be allowed to rip through our most precious vault of nature, Fiordland's World Heritage-listed wilderness?
In one of the last acts of the Beehive's working year, late on Friday, the Conservation Minister announced a delay to his much-awaited decision on the proposed Fiordland Link Experience.
In a sure sign of just how hot this political potato is, Nick Smith has now called for a financial viability report, before making a final decision in 2014.
Just a few months ago, this middle-minded minister jettisoned the polarising and preposterous Dart River Tunnel proposal. Alarm and opposition to the monorail project runs nearly as deep, for a variety of reasons.
Like the Dart River Tunnel, the Fiordland Link panders to need-for- speed Queenstown visitors, who want a short-cut to Milford Sound.
Daytripping from Queenstown currently involves a 10-hour coach ride, which many say is too onerous.
Fiordland Link would short-circuit the trip via a catamaran across Lake Wakatipu, an all-terrain vehicle ride through Mt Nicholas Station and then the controversial 41-kilometre-long monorail ride through the Snowdon Forest.
Only the final leg from the monorail terminus to Milford Sound would be traversed by road, which is a much shorter hop than from Te Anau, which would be bypassed and imperilled by this project.
Should a town's well-being be destabilised by an expedient and extravagant private venture, that would not only clear-fell thousands of beech trees to make way for a monorail, but funnel travellers wishing to stay overnight, to do so at the monorail company-owned private lodge, 50 kilometres north of Te Anau?
Surely we should be encouraging visitors to stay longer in New Zealand and savour the experience, by actively promoting Te Anau as the overnight hub for Fiordland exploration.
Personally, I think the Doubtful Sound journey is as spectacular as Milford Sound. But Nick Smith's biggest concern is what would happen if this $200 million venture failed.
The project's developer, Bob Robertson, also presided over the ignominy of Pegasus Town's receivership. Could Snowdon Forest become a permanent graveyard to a hulking, rusting monorail track?
Isn't it amazing how some retailers seem to revel in antagonising shoppers, by playing the most naff and nauseating Christmas songs.
Mariah Carey sends me instantly out the door, particularly now that we know what she really wants for Christmas is a $1 million cheque for performing for the despotic President of Angola.
If you're craving a traditional festive fix, I hope you can join me in Latimer Square at 9pm tonight, for the YMCA's 66th Carols by Candlelight. Merry Christmas!
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