Eugenie Sage
Mad monorail proposal in Southland tussock grasslands and beech forests

Various alternate routes to Milford Sound have been proposed over the years to solve the perceived problem of travel time to, and congestion at Milford Sound. They include the train tunnel, the highway from Haast and the gondola. Two new proposals now seek concessions from the Department of Conservation.

Milford Dart Ltd wants to build a commercial coach tunnel between Glenorchy and the Hollyford Valley under Fiordland and Mt Aspiring National Parks. Riverstone Holdings Ltd proposes a “get on/get off” boat/unimog/monorail/bus scheme from Queenstown to Te Anau Downs and then Milford.

You can help protect Te Wāhi Pounamu the South West World Heritage Area from the monorail by making a submission to DoC by 19 March. Check out Forest and Birds submission guide (Submissions on the Dart proposal have closed already)

Mavora Lakes

Mavora Lakes - Photo Credit Kiwihausen - CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

In wanting to pack more tourists through Milford Sound more quickly both companies forget that what makes Milford precious is its remoteness,  beauty and the fact that it isn’t five minutes down the road.

The journey to Milford around the lakes, past mountain ranges and through ancient forests is a part of the experience.  The journey and the landscapes are something to savour, rather than speed through in a wearying 12 hour dash from Queenstown to Milford and back again.

 

The monorail project is a major concern partly because DoC’s initial report suggests its impacts can be avoided, remedied or mitigated. This conclusion defies belief given the scale of the earthworks and forest clearance involved and the area’s high ecological and landscape values which feature in this Forest and Bird video.

For the monorail Riverstone Holdings Ltd wants legal control over a 200 metre wide and 43 km long swathe of conservation land.  This would be much cheaper for the company than negotiating rights to use private land.

Snowdon Forest

Snowdon Forest

The company’s promotional video features a snazzy monorail speeding through the forest. It doesn’t show the tens of thousands of beech trees that would be felled and the major earthworks on some steep slopes needed to construct the 43 km monorail track, maintenance track, bridging and power lines.

We can grow our tourism industry by encouraging visitors to stay longer (breaking the journey from Queenstown by staying overnight at Te Anau for example). Then they can walk, smell and enjoy the forests of the Kiwiburn and Upukerora Valleys rather than seeing them flash past a sealed and sound proofed monorail compartment.

Or they can enjoy a spectacular mountainbike ride (accordion warning) on the gravel road from Lake Wakatipu past the jewel like Mavora Lakes to Te Anau. (and eventually around Eyre Mountains) If bus congestion at Milford is a problem then proposals for a park and ride scheme from Te Anau using shared buses deserve further investigation.

35 thoughts on “Mad monorail proposal in Southland tussock grasslands and beech forests

  1. Eugenie says “We can grow our tourism industry by encouraging visitors to stay longer (breaking the journey from Queenstown by staying overnight at Te Anau for example).”

    So the questions is, how do you do that? Because the reality is that they’ve been trying to do that for decades, and failing.

    Most people simply don’t have the time to stay in te Anau, let alone to the walks and bike rides your suggest.

    So the result is Milford Sound is crowded in the middle of the day. It doesn’t feel particularly remote when you have park beside 30 other buses in the car park, queue behind 200 people to get on the boats, and join convoys of vehicles heading back out.

    What’s your solution for getting people to stay in Te Anau when they’d rather stay in Queenstown?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 7 (+1)

  2. Put the monorail in Auckland (airport to CBD??)
    Instead of windows framing the urban / city vistas give the passengers HD video feeds of our National Parks, beaches, clean green NZ etc
    Pipe in audio sounds to add to the ambiance

    As many of us all ready see the world thru glasses/glass and sit in little tin boxes (cars, buses, boats etc) to do so why degrade yet another high quality environment?

    You want another tick in the box? Then call this innovation and sell it to the world.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 5 (+7)

  3. Part of it is appealing to different markets. Cycle tourists for example go slower and depend more on local infrastructure than package tours.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0 (+4)

  4. Snadfly: A bit of roading, of any given form, may represent a minuscule amount of land on the scale of things. Beautiful surroundings are worth more when people can access to them and enjoy them. Maybe they will be more staunchly defended when they are enjoyed by so many too?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 4 (-2)

  5. “Beautiful surroundings are worth more when people can access to them and enjoy them”

    Are they? The mighty kauri Tane Mahuta was put under great threat when tourist numbers grew to the point where the pressure from their feet was damaging his roots. Some restrictions are needed. Inquisitive tourists roaring around the countryside don’t need/deserve/require to see everything. Some ‘beautiful surroundings’ lose their beauty when they are ‘surrounded’.
    Eh, Andrew!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0 (+9)

  6. What is truly precious about the journey to Milford Sound is that it ISN’T developed. Developing it further will take the magic away from what is a truly iconic NZ journey. As it currently is, when you drive out there and look out your window you see the stunning completely natural and untouched landscapes. That is what is precious. The monorail will severely impact on that. 200 metre wide 43 km land required = a lot of impact on the natural landscape. It’s not needed. People who really want to see Milford Sound go there anyway. “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2 (+3)

  7. Sandfly:

    Some restrictions are needed, but don’t-touch-anything environmentalism can be taken to hysterical extremes.

    It’s possible to let everyone enjoy the natural world without hurting it. It’s just a matter of good practice on how you go about things. You don’t have to demand that humans live in their concrete zoos forever.

    And did we kill the kauri Tane Mahuta my standing on its roots? Give me a break.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4 (-1)

  8. What amazes me is they require a 200m wide strip of land! 200m!!!! If that’s their definition of “low impact” they are a bit mad! What the HELL are they building in a 200m strip? It may as well be an airstrip for 737′s.

    About every 5 or 10 years these guys jump up and down proposing this monorail under different companies/branding etc. Its always been rejected in the past but I guess we have to stay vigilante for it to continue to be rejected. It would be a massive mistake for it to go ahead, spoiling a beautiful part of our country. Imagine walking some of those brilliant tracks and coming across massive steel pylons and a train flying along the top. What a joke. NZ IS ISOLATED. Thats the whole point. The sooner this “behind a glass box with all the comforts of home” type of tourism is gone the better. Why not just watch people videos on youtube of going through NZ countryside in your home country? Its the same thing, particularly as 3D becomes better. If you want a real experience though, go hire a car and do some bloody walking.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3 (+4)

  9. Andrew said:
    Sandfly:

    Some restrictions are needed, but don’t-touch-anything environmentalism can be taken to hysterical extremes.

    Yes Andrew, some restrictions are needed. Unrestricted development will damage the resource both physically and in terms of its appeal to the very ‘audience’ demanding the development – ugly, overcrowded tourist spots lose their appeal fast. The opposition to this particular project does not fit your ‘hysterical extremes’ lable. Quite the opposite in fact. There have already been significant routes opened through this part of New Zealand, allowing access by tourists. Seems you are not able to see a point where the call to stop needs to be made.

    It’s possible to let everyone enjoy the natural world without hurting it. It’s just a matter of good practice on how you go about things.
    Quite frankly Andrew, it’s not. We ‘hurt’ the natural environment by our activities no matter how careful we are. A road into Fiordland, for example, provides rapid access to stoats which do enjoy a kiwi egg for breakfast, to cite just one example. Good practice is the best we can do and in some instances (this one included), saying no to further incursion is the best practice that can be applied.
    You don’t have to demand that humans live in their concrete zoos forever.
    ‘We’ don’t. You’ve thrown in a ridiculously exaggerated statement to inflame some base passion or other. Better that we ignore your dull attempt.

    And did we kill the kauri Tane Mahuta my standing on its roots? Give me a break.
    We were well on the way to doing just that. I do wonder now if you are arguing from a position of ignorance.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3 (+2)

  10. greenfly: I suggested that we do not kill the kauri Tane Mahuta BY standing on its roots. I did not say we did not kill it.

    “ugly, overcrowded tourist spots lose their appeal fast.”

    So why not stick to lots of tastefully built small ones? You can also use the ULTra system I suggested, which reduces the access road to a couple of concrete rails and no significant car parks. We have new tools – you should look at them.

    As for the concrete zoo comment: Yes, is was an exaggeration meant for making the point (I thought that was obvious enough), but the truth is anti-sprawl transit-oriented development, promoted by many (claimed) environmentalists, really does move in this force-them-in-a-zoo direction.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3 (-1)

  11. Andrew

    And did we kill the kauri Tane Mahuta my standing on its roots? Give me a break.
    We were well on the way to doing just that. I do wonder now if you are arguing from a position of ignorance.

    http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/tracks-and-walks/northland/kauri-coast/tane-mahuta-track/

    provides the answers

    If one travels that highway one comes across many instances where the road is bridged (called root bridges ironically) across Kauri tree roots to preserve the trees.

    SH12 is a drive well worth it just for the many Kauri trees to view in the Waipoua Forest.

    http://rwdargaville.co.nz/6561/Waipoua-Forest

    And at the end of it visit the most interesting Dargaville Museum.

    mmmmmmmmmmmmm, plan to do that drive again this coming winter.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 (0)

  12. Having both tramped, run and climbed across various parts of Fiordland and other NZ National parks. Having also ridden in tourist buses into Milford, driven in cars/camper vans and flown in planes and helicopters across these parks. And having ridden in gondolas in the Swiss Alps and at Rotorua, I really don’t see the point in putting people in these tin cans to convey them to Milford to put them in more tin cans to ferry them around the Fiord except to feed the sandflys!

    People who don’t get out of their tin cans except to move to another tin can are hardly there to enjoy the “environment”. And as far as sitting in a “tin can” peeping at the scenery through dirty/foggy windows, past other peoples heads, with the air con/heater going flat out, listening to some tour guide and wondering what to eat and drink next (or what the toilets are going to be like)- well it is far cheaper for everyone (and much less damaging to the planet) to send them an HD recording (or live feed) that they can play on their in-home mega-size entertainment system (or the one down the road).

    Fiordland can then get on doing what it does best (and has been doing for thousands of years) sinking carbon and trying to maintain the integrity of its ecosystem.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0 (+8)

  13. Snadfly:

    I relate to your points, but imagine being able to whiz around any ‘eco-zone’ in a private (to the group) electric car, at say 30 km/h and on a spit of electricity, that has no roof only a windscreen…

    Sit back and enjoy the view – not the constant drone of a combustion engine. It can have all the capacity you want, because the cars can platoon (forming virtual trains). Any car can stop off at an off-line point without disrupting the flow, so individual groups can go their own way in their own time.

    That’s why I suggest the ULTra system. It costs a fraction of the money to build, too, because the line only accommodates low-weight vehicles.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=po0QTNBXAzM&feature=related

    This “monorail” is not mad.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1 (-1)

  14. Re Tane Mahuta – yes, standing on its roots was killing it. Even more serious now is kauri dieback which is also brought in on people’s footwear. Too many people are bad for delicate ecosystems.

    I’m with snadfly on this – if all you want is the view, look at it on a screen at home. If you want the experience of remote, untouched wilderness, then go there the hard way and appreciate it all the more.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0 (+2)

  15. “It is very important that you keep to the walking track at all times. Kauri trees have very sensitive surface roots, and foot traffic around the tree endangers their life span.”

    http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/tracks-and-walks/northland/kauri-coast/tane-mahuta-track/

    “The 730 m walk to the tree is well surfaced and takes 20 minutes one way. It is very important that you keep to the walking track at all times. kauri have very sensitive surface roots, and foot traffic around the trees endangers their life span and may potentially spread the PTA disease that is threatening them.”

    http://register.notabletrees.org.nz/tree/view/802

    “As a precaution, people should stick to defined tracks in parks and reserves, clean their footwear, tyres and any equipment that comes into contact with soil before and after leaving areas of kauri forest, and avoid disturbing the roots of kauri trees.”

    http://terranature.org/kauriPTA_TaneMahuta.htm

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0 (+1)

  16. I watched the video Andrew, what makes you think these have a place outside of a city? The video is at Heathrow airport! I am all for implementing these in a city, but they still require enormous infrastructure, levelling of land, chopping through trees etc etc in a forest environment. Did you not notice the overbridges supporting the large concrete sided track ways?

    I have travelled a LOT in Asia, Europe and currently live in China. Systems such as a monorail or bubble car like that are GREAT for transport in cities. Outside of cities, in real attractions and particularly places of great natural beauty these become a bland annoying eyesore for fat rich tourists to take pictures from and say they experienced something. This is a tourism trend that is whole heartedly rejected by most travellers for good reason, the experience you get is non existent and could have been had in the comfort of your living room given the right technology. And as technology improves that is exactly what will happen. Ever gone up the cable car in Langkawi? Up to the big buddah in Hong Kong? What did you experience? And these have a much lighter footprint than a monorail or those bubble cars.

    If something like this was put in Fiordland… for a start, the “no roof” concept doesn’t work, as it rains most of the time and when it doesn’t the sun and sandflys will destroy the people in them, not to mention OSH probably wouldn’t allow it. The “get on/off” idea, requires stations, turn arounds and side parking (check out the map on your video). Yet more infrastructure. What is left of you eco-zone after all this? No bird song (far away trees), polluted soil, run off from land levelling, loss of carbon store etc etc. Operationally people will only want to go when they can see something (about 20% of the time in Fiordland) which would makes the profitability questionable.

    I can see the desire for better access, but the whole beauty of the place comes partly from the difficulty in getting there and its isolation. Put a monorail through there and it becomes dramatically less beautiful as both of these are significantly diminished. And if it doesn’t work and goes bankrupt? A few hundred years for the forest to regrow and a few hundred million spent on nothing…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0 (+2)

  17. Brent:

    The ULTra line costs not much more than a footpath when built at-grade. At-grade it does not need side railing (like in Heathrow). It’s only about 3 meters wide in total, per lane. That is *a* eco-cost, but not much, and you can off-set it by planting trees elsewhere.

    The ULTra cars would realistically be convertible (no need to get wet – just nice to have the ‘open’ effect when you can). Stations can be as simple as a bus-stop. (Heathrow stations have been built for a high immediate-capacity application).

    Here is the original test track:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJeqQSIcpY0

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1 (-1)

  18. –Oh, and from a distance, the ULTra line could and would be virtually invisible. And silent.

    I have long believed ULTra has vast potential for all kinds of special applications. Heathrow is only one of many.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1 (-1)

  19. Its not bad Andrew, but you may as well cut a road through the forest from Elfin Bay to the Milford road. Its probably the best way through without digging tunnels, but would require pretty much the destruction of the Caples track and the western part of the Routeburn. Around about 50km of bubble car road and you will be on the Milford road ready for a bus pickup to go through the Homer tunnel to Milford. 2 1/2 hours in the bubble car @20kmph, an hour left to get to Milford, and hour to get out to the start of the bubble car track from Queenstown = 4.5 hours. Currently it takes 4 hours Queenstown to Milford by car (and is a beautiful drive), so you spend an extra 30mins (assuming the pod cars can go 50km without a charge) and destroy two great walking tracks.

    I still can’t see the benefit…

    Not only that it still subjects people to living in a bubble. Not getting out and really experiencing the environment.

    My question is … why? NZ is a place known for its isolation. For its adventure. For its natural beauty. Do we want to keep that reputation? Or do we want NZ to become like so many other places in the world. Catered to fat people with big wallets who want to take pictures from pod cars and leave claiming they had “a wonderful time”. I vote for keeping and enhancing our reputation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1 (+3)

  20. Brent:

    All I can say is I personally would prefer a convertible bubble car (a lot like a golf cart). It’s silent, smooth and I can talk and look, not drive. It’s also much cheaper in total costs than conventional roads/cars. What would the market want? Ultimately we can only guess at how the public value is weighed up. And should the Fiordland only belong to people who are prepared to walk?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1 (-1)

  21. I remember the same issue over the Graham/Cobb road in Nelson years ago.

    I doubt if the road improved what was a largely unspoilt wilderness area, for anyone apart from the cavers.

    There is always somebody who thinks they can make more money out of increasing accessibility to an area.

    Many of our places are special because the difficulty of access prevents them becoming just another tourist spot, full of people, like many others in the world.

    We need to say, enough!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0 (+2)

  22. Should Fiordland only belong to people who are prepared to walk?

    Thats the wrong question. Fiordland as a National Park belongs to NZ. You are asking if Fiordland should be only accessible to those who are prepared to walk. Well, Fiordland is already accessible via the Milford & Lower Hollyford roads, boats across Manapouri, boats from Milford and helicopters to everywhere.

    Hell yeah, why not put the bubble car highway in and ruin 2 great walking tracks. While we are there, lets cable car the Routeburn and the Kepler. Bubble car the Milford, Hollyford and out to Dusky sound because currently they aren’t accessible enough and only walkers can get to them. Oh wait, now we have a class of tourists in these places who are fat, angry, lazy and who come expecting all the comforts of home and only want to take pictures. They demand restaurants, hotels in the middle of nowhere causing huge infrastructure demands. Hang on a second, these places aren’t beautiful anymore, we have replaced them with trendy/kitschy rides and big flashy hotels, the people leave without experiencing anything, gaining only a bytes of data on their memory cards. They abuse the environment and exploit the local people, but hey they give money to big hotel chains and the money trickles down to the locals (yeah right).

    Is this the NZ you want? Its happening in many other parts of the world who open up access to their pristine environments, which subsequently ruins them. My advice: Go to Koh Phi Phi. Go to Genting Highlands. Go to remote places in China where they put cable cars up to old remote monasteries and force the monks to become tour guides.

    Is that the NZ you want? Greater access to an area is just the beginning.

    Walking is the most natural activity humans do. If people cannot walk for a few hours a day to see New Zealand, then yes, they should stay at home.

    http://www.ultimatehikes.co.nz/en/guided-walks/the-milford-track/our-lodges

    Just look and see what is already happening with walking tracks. Hairdryers, electricity generated until 10pm, you can get drunk before your next days walk, 3 course meals… everything you “need” is flown in by helicopter. its already gone beyond back country experiences for walkers. What do you think more ROADS will do?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0 (+3)

  23. Brent:

    I think a total-system model has to be proposed before a reasonable debate can begin.

    Quote: “Walking is the most natural activity humans do. If people cannot walk for a few hours a day to see New Zealand, then yes, they should stay at home.”

    Not everyone can walk far, even if they want to.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1 (0)

  24. Not everyone can walk far, even if they want to.

    Thats right, so they shouldn’t be able to see isolated parts of NZ. Whats the alternative? Maybe we should make the Milford track so people with wheelchairs can access it. Wait, blind people won’t be able to see the scenery so we should erect signs in braile explaining the scenery. Hold on, paraplegics can’t get power for their electric wheelchairs so we should put charging stations every 3 km on the newly paved and graded Milford track. Deaf people will need constant bleeping sounds along the track so they know not to walk to far from the track. Who wants to walk the track now? Where does it stop?

    If you can’t walk too far, stick to the roads and small day walks. The scenery is pretty breathtaking on most of these, we don’t need to create highways simply to cater to the people with limited movement. If you want to see more, get in shape so you can walk 15km with a pack on over rough ground. If you physically can’t, sorry, life is hard but that is reality.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1 (+2)

  25. Brent:

    I am grotesquely overweight and can’t walk more than 50 meters. If you don’t build me an ULTra system I will insist (no – demand) that you personally drag me over the tracks. I’ll be in a cart – you’ll be my horsey. If you’re good I’ll spare you the whip.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 (0)

  26. It seems that the monorail will impact little on the environment. Most of the area is outside the Park. I see the Te Anau people protesting, using the”Hands off the Park” plea. It’s not this which bothers them, but the economics. Since I was a boy we’ve been doubtful about big investment in Te Anau. Eventually it will be bypassed, maybe eventually by a Greenstone, Lower Hollyford, Cascade main road. The present arrangement fills the Sound with buses, all at the same time-midday. Any alternative access will spread the load.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>