1 Jun 2014

Monorail developer accepts decision

2:39 pm on 1 June 2014

The developer behind a monorail proposal in Fiordland National Park, which has been scuttled by the Government, will not appeal against the decision or pursue any legal action.

An artist's impression of the proposed monorail.

An artist's impression of the proposed monorail. Photo: Fiordland Link Experience

Conservation Minister Nick Smith turned down application for the $240 million project, saying it didn't stack up economically or environmentally.

Bob Robertson from Riverstone Holdings spent $5 million and ten years working on the project.

He said the way the Minister reviewed the financial aspect of the monorail was flawed, and he had given specific guarantees the project could be funded and completed.

"I am devastated, because I thought we'd passed all the milestones that were needed. It's pretty disappointing, because it's going to negatively impact on what could have been something fantastic for New Zealand tourism."

Mr Robertson said he would now let the matter rest, but warned that other developers may be scared off by the decision and it sent the wrong message about investing in New Zealand.

Dr Nick Smith.

Dr Nick Smith. Photo: RNZ

Dr Smith said he had carefully considered the proposal and visited the site twice. He acknowledged that developer Bob Robertson would be disappointed.

"I do not want this decision interpreted as the Government and the Department of Conservation being opposed to any proposal for alternative access options in Fiordland," Dr Smith said.

"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," he said.

The proposal

Fiordland Link Experience proposed the new link between Queenstown and Milford Sound comprising a 20km boat trip across Lake Wakatipu to Mt Nicholas Station, a 45km all-terrain vehicle ride to Kiwi Burn, a 43.8km monorail ride to Te Anau Downs and a 90km 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.


Some 18,000 people signed a petition against the monorail. Dr Smith said it was probably the second most significant application DoC has dealt with after the failed Milford Dart tunnel proposal in 2013. This involved digging an 11km tunnel under parts of the Mount Aspiring and Fiordland national parks to cut four hours off the return trip from Queenstown to Milford Sound.

Dr Smith said an independent tourism and financial analysis concluded that the monorail was not viable and there would be a significant impact on the area's flora, fauna and natural heritage.

"If this monorail is built (and) it fails, I'm advised it would take some hundreds of millions of dollars to be able to remove it. Furthermore, if you have a financial operation on public land that is not able to operate successfully, you run a whole lot of risks around whether it's going to be able to meet proper environmental standards."

The proposed monorail.

The proposed monorail, from above. Photo: Fiordland Link Experience