The Department of Conservation (DOC) is inviting public submissions on a proposed concession to construct a tunnel between Mount Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks.
Milford Dart Limited (MDL) has applied to build a single-lane commercial coach tunnel under sections of the two National Parks. The tunnel will link existing public roads in the Routeburn and Hollyford valleys and is designed to halve the current nine hour return journey for commercial tourist buses travelling between Queenstown and Milford Sound.
The proposal requires the construction of about 150 metres of new road in the Mt Aspiring national park and an 11.3 kilometre tunnel under the Humboldt and Ailsa Ranges.
Before it can proceed with the plan, MDL requires a concession agreement from DOC along with the appropriate resource consents from local authorities.
Southland Conservator Barry Hanson says DOC has carefully examined the environmental impact of the proposal on the land it manages.
“DOC has sought independent expert advice on the proposals and MDL have made assessment and agreed to minimise any environmental impacts from the proposal.
“DOC’s initial view is that, with appropriate conditions, the impacts of the proposal are acceptable but DOC will take the outcome of public consultation into account before taking a final decision on whether to approve the concession.”
He says public submissions on the proposal will remain open for forty working days, following that and DOC will hold public hearings to consider these submissions before reaching its final decision.
Mr Hanson says DOC can only consider the impact of the proposal on land managed by DOC and wider issues raised will be dealt with by resource consents required from the Southland and Queenstown Lakes district councils.
- The application involves the construction of an 11.3 km long 5m diameter single lane bus/coach road tunnel, two tunnel entrance portals, a 150m section of new road at the Routeburn road end and the disposal of 268,000 m3 of spoil at the Hollyford airstrip (raising the height of the airstrip by 8m).
- DOC has conducted extensive investigations into the proposal since it was first lodged by MDL in 2005. This has included seeking independent advice from external experts on the environmental impacts of the proposal.
- DOC is charged with considering the proposal in terms of the land it manages and to determine whether the activity is consistent with the relevant National Park Management Plan. Other wider environmental issues and community concerns will be dealt with during the resource consents required from local authorities.
- MDL has agreed to a range of steps to mitigate the impact of the tunnels construction and is also proposing to support conservation values in the area through predator and pest control programmes.