by Eugenie Sage
Congratulations to Save Fiordland, Forest and Bird and the more than 18,000 people who spoke out to protect the Te Wahipounamu SouthWest World Heritage Area and Fiordland’s beautiful river valleys and the ancient beech forests of Snowdon Forest from a destructive and risky monorail.
The reality would have been nothing like the glossy PR of a green monorail sliding through the forest. The reality would have involved felling of thousands of trees, extensive earthworks on steep slopes with the risk of slumping and slips after heavy rain, sediment clouded streams and rivers, weed spread; big concrete platforms for the monorail track, power pylons and noise.
In declining Riverstone Holdings Ltd’s concession application the Conservation Minister made the only decision he could make if he was going to take seriously the Conservation Act, policies in the Conservation Management Strategy which had been through a robust consultation process, and New Zealand’s international commitments under the World Heritage Convention.
New Zealanders want our treasured places to be pristine and available for public recreation. They want to be able to enjoy them not have them defaced with a wide corridor of logged forest, powerlines, and hundreds of concrete platforms.
The decision means that the Kiwiburn Valley near Southland’s famed Mavora Lakes is still available for accessible family tramping without having a huge vehicle park and monorail station at the start of the track.
The decision is good for tourism too. Te Anau is the real gateway to Milford Sound not Queenstown. By bypassing Te Anau, the monorail would have impacted on existing accommodation, retail and tourism businesses there in favour of Queenstown based hotels and tour companies.
New Zealanders want to enjoy nature on nature’s terms. The monorail would have been at odds with that.