by Eugenie Sage
Glenorchy based Stop the Tunnel is presenting a series of stunning photographs of Mt Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks to the Local Government and Environment select committee today. The presentation is in support of their petition to Parliament to stop the proposed $150 million Milford Dart bus tunnel. The online petition has now been signed by almost 30,000 people.
Stop the Tunnel’s message is that New Zealand is so far from its tourism markets that we need to promote long stay, slow tourism. I agree. Slow tourism means tourists can enjoy our point of difference – our spectacular landscapes, the distinctive smell of beech forests after rain, gin clear rivers in the national parks, the chimes of the korimako/bellbird. Hustling people from Queenstown to Milford in a bus with 11 km of that trip underground offers none of those experiences.
Conservation Minister, Nick Smith has said the tunnel decision is one of the hardest he has had to make. It should be one of the easiest for many reasons:
- It trades a high quality natural environment for a mass transit system more suited to Auckland than our national parks.
- The tunnel would start at the start of the Routeburn Track, a Great Walk enjoyed by more than 16,300 day walkers and 14,850 freedom walkers each year. Walkers come to enjoy nature’s beauty and the challenge of the track. How bizarre if instead of birdsong and the sound of the river walkers are greeted by a big bus stop, tar sealed road and carpark, vehicle noise, traffic and fumes. This risks widening the gap between our 100% Pure marketing image and reality.
- Southland and Otago Conservation Boards after lengthy consideration have both recommended that the bus tunnel be declined. The Boards represent the community. If DoC’s is serious about “partnership”, the Boards advice should be respected.
- The bus tunnel is a new road. The Mt Aspiring National Park Management Plan, signed off by the NZ Conservation Authority prohibits new roading in the park. The tunnel would also require widening and recontouring the current access to the start of Routeburn Track, changing it from a charming, narrow, gravel road overhung by beech forest to a wide and probably tar sealed road. The public make submissions on DoC’s management plans expecting that their provisions will be implemented.
- The tunnel is at odds with the vision many Glenorchy residents have for their community – focused on sustainable enterprises, extensive farming, and nature based tourism.
- There is no demonstrated business case for the tunnel and no evidence it will benefit local businesses. Visitors bypassing Te Anau, potentially affect accommodation and tourism visitors there.
- The law requires our national parks to be preserved in perpetuity as far as possible. They should not be not a source of free land for private companies wanting to create a few short term drilling and construction jobs, in all likelihood financed by offshore borrowing.
- Nick Smith has agreed to Bathurst Resource’s destruction of unique coal measure ecosystems on the Denniston Plateau. Email the Minister and encourage him to say NO to the Routeburn tunnel. Ask Prime Minister and Tourism Minister John Key firstname.lastname@example.org and Conservation Minister Nick Smith email@example.com to say no to the tunnel.