Fiordland Link monorail declinedConservation
The application by Riverstone Holdings Limited to build and operate a $240 million monorail in Fiordland has been declined by Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith.
“This proposal does not stand up either economically or environmentally. The independent tourism and financial analysis concluded it was not viable. There would be a significant impact on the area’s flora, fauna and natural heritage. The route is not sufficiently defined to properly assess the impacts,” Dr Smith says.
“Developments in an area with World Heritage status and which impact on the Fiordland National Park must meet the highest of standards and I have concluded that the risks of this proposal are too great.”
The Fiordland Link Experience proposed a new link between Queenstown and Milford Sound consisting of a 20-kilometre boat excursion across Lake Wakatipu to Mt Nicholas Station, a 45-kilometre all-terrain vehicle ride to Kiwi Burn, a 43.8-kilometre monorail ride to Te Anau Downs and a 90-kilometre coach journey to Milford Sound. The application included a lease, licence and concession for the monorail and related infrastructure through the South West New Zealand World Heritage Area including the Snowdon Forest and Fiordland National Park.
“This monorail had more merit than the Milford Tunnel proposal and has been a more difficult decision to make. The process has taken some time because I have wanted to consider it very carefully. I have visited the site twice, met its applicants twice, consulted with the New Zealand Conservation Authority, and spent days reading the relevant reports and responses from the applicants. I appreciate my decision will come as a major disappointment to Riverstone Holdings,” Dr Smith says.
“I do not want this decision interpreted as the Government and the Department of Conservation (DOC) being opposed to any proposal for alternative access options in Fiordland. The strategic issue of facilitating better transport options between Queenstown and Milford remains. The door is still open but proposals will need to be both environmentally sustainable and economically viable.
“This conservative decision reflects the cautious approach I have to developments in Fiordland. This World Heritage Area has some of New Zealand’s most highly valued and spectacular landscapes that require I err on the side of nature.”