For once in my life I agree with Nick Smith

It is not often that I agree with Nick Smith, but today is one of those days.

Controversial plans for a tunnel between Queenstown and Milford Sound have been rejected by Conservation Minister Nick Smith.

Dr Smith said he was declining the application because the environmental impacts were “significant” and beyond what was appropriate in two of New Zealand’s most spectacular national parks.

Milford Dart Limited had applied for permission to build a $170 million, 11.3km, five-metre diameter, single-lane bus tunnel that would have slashed the nine-hour journey time between the tourist hotspots. 

His reasons were:

He said there were three main reasons for declining the application.

The first was the need to dispose of half a million tonnes of tunnel spoil that would permanently damage the natural landscape.

The second was the impact of the new roads and portals at each end, and the effects on visitors at the entrance to the Routeburn Track.

The third was that the engineering works and tunnel were inconsistent with the national park management plans.

He was also concerned about the economic viability and safety of the tunnel proposal.

I suspect the economic viability would ultimately have tipped him over. I can just see this whole project falling over then loads of vested interests cajoling the government into funding and keeping the project going.

Now if he would just can the stupid monorail in Southland as well.


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  • blokeintakapuna

    Monorail could be an awesome adventure trail. First, the scenery along the way – but if the monorail stopped half way or at various points along the way to let on and off mountain bikers, hikers, eco-tourists for morning/afternoon tea’s and lunches – could also be a great way to educate tourists about our environment.
    I recon bring on the monorail!

    • spiker

      The monorail might be OK I think, but there’s a screaming bunch of locals who are against it and not necessarily for environmental reasons. Some are concerned about the effect on their commercial interests in Te Anau.

    • Dave

      One going cheap in Sydney, its finished and is currently being dismantled. Problem is, for their bulk, they don’t carry many passengers, they need a different carriage design! Agree with the point about stopping every 3-5KM to drop off hikers and mountain bikers etc, provided every last one of them MUST carry a transmitter so we can track them when they get lost.

    • Sir Cullen’s Sidekick

      Hire Celia Wade I say :-)

    • AnonWgtn

      Will even go South if the monorail was there, but only to Te Anau and back – not interested in Milford Sounds now – mossies too big.
      Would be a great days outing from Queenstown.

  • Pete George

    Far better staying in Te Anau to visit Milford Sound – and it’s well worth going to Doubtful Sound while you’re there, a different experience but as good.

    Te Anau to Milford Sound – 118 km (236 km round trip). Enjoy the trip in and out.

    No brainer.

    • Mediaan

      People come across the world for a few days to visit NZ, then choose eight or ten places to go. It’s a big investment on a per-town basis.

      They haven’t got an extra night to stay in small-town unfeatured Te Anau.

  • spike

    The tunnel was not an attractive option. I think people would have been put off by the thought of being in a 5m wide tunnel for 11km in earthquake country. There would not be many takers. Also, what were they going to do with the spoil from the tunnel works? There’s a noisy group of locals who don’t want the monorail either, whipped up by the Greens who are only trying to embarrass the government. Some clowns even tried to get Helen Clark involved. That’s playing with fire. Uncle Helen, as she is called at the UN, is not popular, to put it mildly. She has only been re-appointed because they need a scapegoat for when the Millennium Goals program fails to reach its targets by 2014 – and it will fail. Uncle Helen is about as popular at the UN as Robbie Deans was in Australia.

    • Mediaan

      I thought NIck Smith had very good points about likely escalating costs and the danger of safety and emergency structures being too weak because of costs.

      Thank goodness we have a government that uses business brainwork.

  • unitedtribes

    you are being very agreeable this week

  • anotherblokeintakapuna

    Remember that our National Parks are for the benefit of all New Zealanders, and some of us are unable to hike or bike the various tracks due to age or disability. The monorail would provide a unique experience for kiwis and visitors alike, but no stops along the way – snacks on the monorail itself no problem.

    • rockape

      So you wouldnt object to me riding my trail bike up the routburne? Sorry, a soding great monorail through a beautiful bit of unspoilt country means its no longer unspoilt. If you want a nature theme park go to rainbow.

    • Anonymouse Coward

      There are large areas of wetlands in the Greenstone Valley.

      One of the attractions of the monorail was construction was proposed with a method using the monorail itself which meant no construction access road was necessary and only minimal earth disturbance.

      A recent statement by the promoters said that the access road would now be necessary and the construction could not be done with the build forward from the monorail method.

      The revised method would cause substantial damage to sensitive wetland areas. This make the project a non starter in my opinion.

  • cows4me

    Smith might have got this one right but I do hope the monorail gets the go.
    It really amazes me that these moaning fucks in the South Island go ape shit when development is proposed. Mostly it’s a nimby attitude. The same people that decry developments are the first to moan to the government when rural services are cut and infrastructure projects are slow to develop. They can’t have it both ways and before they accuse someone like myself that I would have a similar attitude they should live in Taranaki. Prospecting is a way of life here and the government doesn’t give a flying fuck about property rights when handing out prospecting licenses. Why should the rest of the country support those that reject a chance to make a dollar.

    • Mediaan

      Yes, I did notice the objectors were a few coffee shops and other retail outlet interests in Te Anau, to a large extent. TV crews got down there looking for somebody in Te Anau to interview, and here was Marmaduke Pringle, owner of a small cafe in Main Street, and Lucinda Lavish, owner of a gift shop, saying, “If this goes ahead, my business will go off by 30%”.

      Well, OK, that’s sad, sorry about your lesening business, but put it up against NZ’s major income-earner tourism. Life hands you some knockbacks. And it has been seen to be coming for years. Did you read the paper and the business projections?

  • Ratchet

    I haven’t travelled the road, but NINE HOURS for a 286km journey?!? That’s only a shade over 30km/h average speed for the entire trip.
    Google maps tells me around 3 and a half hours odd, and even allowing for google’s inaccuracy (travelling SH43 from Taumarunui to Stratford took me 25 mins longer than predicted using google) I would say 4 and a half hours would be a good conservative estimate.

    Anyone care to clarify the ACTUAL travel time?

    • Bunswalla

      Would you care to read the article and Pete G’s comment? The 9 hours is from Queenstown to Milford Sound, Pete was talking about Te Anau to Milford Sound – you still have to get from Queenstown to Te Anau, just 171km each way.

      • Ratchet

        I read the original stuff article yesterday, and the direct quote is:

        “At present the drive from Queenstown to Milford is 286km long through Mossburn and Te Anau, and takes about nine hours.”

        Like I said, I’ve never been down there, and don’t know the relationships between the towns, so the time and distance stuck out as a very unusual thing.

        Now if they wrote “9 hour round trip” I would accept that, but everything I’ve read represents the 286km trip as 9 HOURS

        Poor reporting ALL AROUND

        • Bunswalla

          Fair point

    • GregM

      In a car, about 3.5 hrs from Queenstown with a few stops. Pete George has the right idea, do it as a day trip from Te anau.
      I am anti the monorail too, mainly for financial reasons. It will end up costing double the budget due to unforseen geology etc, etc, and be under utilized and the taxpayer will end up picking up the tab.

      • Mr_Blobby

        No the TAX payer doesn’t have to pick up the bill. As long as the funding is in place and it is a private commercial venture.

        There is an existing road that people can use.

        It probably wouldn’t be under utilized but as a private commercial venture it will stand or fall on its own merit.

        Worse case scenario block up the entrance and leave it.

    • rusty

      Based on experience leave Te Anau about 8am Stops at the mirror lakes and Chasm. Arrive Milford Sound around 10am and beat all the Queenstown bus tourists. Couple of pics of Mite Peak (if you can see it) and a coffee before heading off on one of the boat trips for 2-3 hours. Back in time for a late lunch and then head back. Remember that the Homer Tunnel is only open for set hours in each directions so that can slow you down both ways. Stop at The Homer Tunnel to play in the snow and take a few pics of the Kea’s. Stop at various spots for some more pics and then perhaps head up the Hollyford Road to Gunns Camp or a walk up to The Humboldt falls (1hr) or maybe a walk up the Lake Marion track. Back to Te Anau about 5pm in the afternoon in time for a speights and venison burger in front of the fire in the pub. One of the worlds greatest drives and it takes all day. Of course not what the bus does as that adds about 6 hours for the return trip to Queenstown and a great reason why Te Anau should be promoted more. Agree with Nick Smith and the locals on this one. You really should stay a couple of nights in Te Anau to do this justice. Otherwise fly in.

    • AnonWgtn

      You are not far out in timing – hell of a days journey.

    • Mediaan

      In a bus I recall it was a bit more than four hours each way. Bloody boring trip.

  • Mr_Blobby

    Wrong Whale boy.

    1.An 11 hour trip cut substantially, that would encourage many more multiples of people to visit. Both times I went to Queenstown the trip time discouraged me into not going.

    2. The vested interests are the helicopter business and the towns along the existing publicly funded route that would lose business.

    3. Somebody wants to build a private road and fund it themselves. I will say that again, a private investor wants to build a private road and fund it themselves, no public funding.

    I have always said that if somebody wants to build infrastructure that has a sound business case and it funds itself then we should let them do it.

    I would have absolutely no objection if a private company came along and said we want to build a inner city loop and will recover the cost through fares and other addons like shops etc I would have absolutely no objection.

    What I object to is that have to fund it through RATES and TAXES the subsidize the running of it forever and then pay to use it.

  • Travis Poulson

    Great decision by Dr Smith, I actually signed the petition against this dumb idea months ago so good to see it payed off.

    • Bunswalla

      That was probably the clincher ;-)

    • Mr_Blobby

      If a private investor came a long and said I will build and pay for Loppy Lens inner city train loop and recover the cost through patronage. would you sign the petition against that. As a private commercial investment the risk is carried by the investors, not the rate payers. If it succeeds good on them if it fails tough. But it is Guaranteed to fail as a public service.

      Or would you prefer to fund it through RATES and TAXES then subsidize the running costs forever and then pay to use it yourself.

      • Travis Poulson

        My decision was purely based on environmental reasons, nothing to do with the economics or who is investing in it.

        • TomTom

          Well then that’s just fucking dumb. The spoil could have been used to fill up some of the coal and gold open pit mines round the region. The tunnel would have saved a shit load on diesel so therefore less diesel fumes in the environment and would have been positive for the environment.

          Not only that, everyone else on the road would be able to stop wasting petrol with constant deceleration and acceleration coming up to and passing all the damn busses on the highway.

          • Travis Poulson

            Yea, speaking of “just fucking dumb”….

            “The spoil could have been used to fill up some of the coal and gold open pit mines round the region.”

            I think you are confused with emissions and preserving wilderness, but that’s alright, luckily it was Nick Smith making an informed decision, not you.

          • TomTom

            Lol then you have no scope/idea of what the project would have entailed. The approach road from Queenstown is mostly outside the park, and the tunnel joins in the highway to Milford Sound directly so there would have zilch impact there. And the whole idea of a tunnel is go directly under the park…

            It would have been environmentally positive to have gone ahead with the tunnel due to reduced emissions from busses. No one likes diesel fumes. People mostly objected to this on the basis of dealing with the spoil – easy problem to solve and a non issue.

          • Travis Poulson

            Actually you have no idea, half a million tonnes of spoil would have had to have been dumped in the park. To suggest they should truck it all the way to the nearest open cast mine really shows your lack of knowledge of the logistics and increased costs involved. But yes you’re right it is a non issue, thanks to Nick.

  • Mediaan

    It’s not stupid to try and shorten (and make safer) a boring bus trip through from Te Anau to Milford, four-plus hours each way as I recall, which is for half the year open to the threat of avalanches along the way. Not the way to treat our tourist visitors.

    And why isn’t anybody setting up a business with a gutsy couple of eight-plus passenger helicopters and a heliport each end, to transport them in that way? Couple of million dollars.

    Tourists would pay, given a comfortable lounge each end with snacks and drinks, comfortable pick-up connections and some chocolates on board.

    But not in one of those tiny uneconomic helicopters, you need a bigger arrangement.

    • Travis Poulson

      There’s nothing stopping people chartering a chopper now, and some do.

      • Mediaan

        That’s the point of my comment. Helicopters, the little ones, would cost $8,000 or more. And hold about two. What do they do while you are visiting the Sound? Idle down time.

        That’s why you need one that seats maybe eight visitors. To lower the per-passenger costs. So shop for a big used one.

        Two or three runs there and back per day, probably in the season. Lower the cost to $5000 per trip, split between six or eight visitors. Throw in some luxury features, to emphasise the superiority of the transport method. Market it well. Discounts for bookings of two or more.

        It could leave from Glenorchy. Lot closer to Queenstown than Te Anau.

  • Hazards001

    There is none…absolutely no way zip zero and fucking nada that you could build an 11k tunnel 5m dia. for 170 mill unless you were building the fucking thing in 1910.

    What a complete load of twaddle.

    As you say this piece of stupidity would have fallen flat on its face before the damn drill was even a thrid of the way in and the taxpayer muggins would be left holding the bag and the bankruptcy.

  • BR

    Nick Smith did the right thing for the wrong reasons.


    • Travis Poulson

      No he didn’t. He actually cited several reasons, but the main one being the impact on the environment. Personally I find this to be the most important reason, I don’t think we need to be dicking around with a pristine wilderness area for the sake of a bloody bus tunnel.

      • BR

        I disagree. There is plenty of “pristine wilderness” to go round. The tunnel was a bad idea for many reasons, but “pristine wilderness” was not one of them. The tunnel rubble would have eventually blended in with the “pristine wilderness”, and become part of the “pristine wilderness” The greens and Labour love to prattle on about “pristine wildernesses” Nick Smith should piss off and join them.


        • Travis Poulson

          “Plenty of wilderness to go around”

          Good grief.

  • pukakidon

    Ok… The Watermelons are redundant now. I think we can look after the environment ourselves. Maybe the members of the Green Party can piss off back to their own countries and take their shit stirring with them.

    • BR

      We don’t need to look after the environment.

      The environment can look after itself.