18 Jul 2013

No court challenge over rejected tunnel plan

12:07 pm on 18 July 2013

The company whose proposal for a tunnel linking Queenstown with Milford Sound has been rejected will not seek a judicial review of the Conservation Minister's decision.

Nick Smith on Wednesday announced he had declined the application to build an 11.3km bus tunnel beneath parts of Mount Aspiring and Fiordland National parks. He said the environmental impacts are significant and beyond what is appropriate in two of New Zealand's most spectacular national parks and a designated World Heritage Area.

Nick Smith.

Nick Smith. Photo: RNZ

A director of Milford Dart Limited, the company behind the plan, says the decision was clear and there's no point taking the issue through the courts.

Tom Elworthy says his company gave it their best shot, but after eight years battling to build the tunnel there is no point taking the proposal further.

He says a second plan to develop a similar tunnel, which was presented to the Conservation Minister, Nick Smith, last week will also be scrapped.

A member of the Stop the Tunnel campaign group, Ruth-Ann Anderson, says there was nothing to be gained by going to the court.

She says the second tunnel proposal was a fantasy on the part of Milford Dart and given the minister's clear message yesterday, it never would have made it off the drawing board.

Greens urge minister to reject monorail

Dr Smith is still to announce a decision on a proposal by Riverstone Holdings for a monorail through the Snowdon Forest Conservation Area near Te Anau.

He has said there is a very high threshold for allowing engineering works with national parks, but the difference with the monorail project is that very little of it is within national parks.

Green Party conservation spokesperson Eugenie Sage says approving the project would be a tragedy for Fiordland. "The monorail proposal would involve the clearance of thousands of beech trees for substantial earthworks on very steep country with a major risk of erosion. It would completely destroy the family tramping values of the Kiwi Burn area."

Ms Sage concedes the test in the Conservation Act is not as strong as that in the National Parks Act, so there is a risk Dr Smith may find the monorail more difficult to decline.