24 February, 2013
Fiordland projects to be determined by Minister
Proposals for the Milford Dart Tunnel through Fiordland and Mt Aspiring National Parks and the Fiordland Link Experience of a catamaran, all-terrain vehicle track and monorail through the Snowdon Forest are to be determined by Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith.
“The Conservation and National Parks Acts provide for decisions on concession applications and proposals for roads in National Parks to be made by the Minister of Conservation. I have decided that given the scale of these Fiordland projects and the huge public interest it is not appropriate for these decisions to be delegated to a departmental official. These are public lands and it is proper that these decisions are made by a publicly elected and accountable official,” Dr Smith says.
This decision is consistent with the powers of delegation dating back to 1997, where the Director-General of Conservation shall refer matters of national interest, or involving significant environment, social or economic implications, to the Minister.
“The decisions on the Milford Dart Tunnel and Fiordland Link Experience will be difficult. 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.
“I have taken advice on ensuring a robust process. My primary advisor will be the Department of Conservation and its advice will be a matter of public record. I expect to receive the Department’s reports on the Milford Dart Tunnel soon and on the Fiordland Link Experience in the next few months.
“I will visit the affected areas and meet with the commissioners who heard the public submissions after I have received each Departmental report. I also intend to meet with the applicants of each project and seek the advice of the New Zealand Conservation Authority before making a decision.
“I will be taking a careful and considered approach and I am very conscious of the importance of coming to a fair and balanced decision.”