Date: 30 October 2013
Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith today inspected the site of the proposed Fiordland monorail, met with the applicants Riverstone Holdings Limited, and released official advice recommending he approve the project subject to extensive conditions.
"This ambitious $200 million project involves the building of the world's longest monorail to enhance the experience of the hundreds of thousands of visitors travelling between Queenstown and Milford Sound," Dr Smith says.
"I wanted to see for myself the areas affected by the construction of the two terminals and the 29.5-kilometre long, six-metre wide corridor that would be cleared to make way for the monorail through public conservation land. I also wanted to thoroughly scrutinise the impacts on the Snowdon Forest and its wildlife, as well as understanding the effects on the existing recreational users of the area.
"This monorail decision will be no easier than that of the Milford Tunnel. I am very protective of National Parks like Fiordland and this project has the advantage of being largely outside it. However, the monorail requires clearance of a far greater area of forest on public conservation land. The submissions process also shows there are strongly held views both in support and in opposition to this project.
"I am releasing the official reports from DOC and the Hearing Commissioner because of the level of public interest in this proposal. I want to be open about the advice I have received and the issues I must consider.
"Today I have inspected the site and met with the applicants, Riverstone Holdings Limited, and the Hearing Commissioner. I also want to discuss the proposal with the New Zealand Conservation Authority and consider further advice from DOC on the World Heritage status of the area."
Over the next few days Dr Smith will be joining the 125th anniversary walk of the Milford Track and on Saturday opening the new track to the Sutherland Falls.
"I am looking forward to having some time to reflect on my site visit and the hundreds of pages of submissions and advice I have read over the past week. I hope to be in a position to make a decision before year's end, subject to being satisfied that I have all necessary information needed to make a good decision," Dr Smith says.
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