Eugenie Sage

The Routeburn tunnel – National Parks or National disgrace?

by Eugenie Sage

Birdsong should not be replaced by the sound of diggers in our National Parks.

Promoters claim that the Department of Conservation (DoC) will soon decide whether Milford Dart Ltd’s application for a proposed 11.3km private bus tunnel from the Glenorchy end of the Routeburn track to the Hollyford Valley near Te Anau goes ahead.

Our six minute film “National Park or National disgrace” is a reminder  of why the tunnel proposal is a lose-lose for our national parks, our clean, green reputation, tourism businesses and the Glenorchy and Te Anau communities.

If you haven’t done so already, please write to Prime Minister John Key ( and DoC Director-General Al Morrison ( with your reasons why the tunnel should not go ahead.

Please share the film and the need to write.

Community organisations Stop the Tunnel and Save Fiordland have extensive information on the issue.

Increasing tourism revenue is about slowing visitors down so they stay longer and spend more. Air New Zealand understands this and is promoting the “stunning natural surroundings” of Great Walks such as the Routeburn Track in its inflight magazine and on its website.  National needs to get it, too.

Former Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson was keen to avoid dirtying her hands with an unpopular decision on the Routeburn Track tunnel. She off-loaded decision-making responsibility onto DoC officials.

This is despite the tunnel proposal and its large waste rock dump affecting two National Parks (Fiordland and Mt Aspiring), one of our three World Heritage sites and being contrary to National Park management plans and policies. These statutory documents were prepared with considerable public input and signed off by the local conservation boards, the New Zealand Conservation Authority and the Minister.

The tunnel’s impact on a world famous Great Walk and internationally significant public protected lands mean the Minister, not a second tier DoC official, should decide the outcome.

As Minister of Local Government, Dr Nick Smith was an enthusiastic interventionist – axing an elected regional council to promote irrigation development in Canterbury and drafting legislation to significantly increase Ministerial powers to direct and interfere with local councils.

As the “new” (recycled) Minister of Conservation, Nick Smith needs to intervene for conservation rather than development, to save the Routeburn and Hollyford valleys and our national parks from such a large and destructive private commercial project.

Government Ministers, not officials, made the decision to save Lake Manapouri in the 1970s. If the Minister is not prepared to stand up for the public interest in our National Parks and reject the Routeburn tunnel, what is the point of having a Minister ?

Please write and ask the Prime Minister and Director-General to say NO to the Routeburn tunnel.