Fiordland monorail decision welcomed
Friday 30 May 2014 5:45 a.m.
Nick Smith said the monorail didn't stack up economically or environmentally
By Sarah Robson
Opposition parties have welcomed the Government's decision to pull the plug on a controversial proposal to build a 43km monorail in Fiordland.
Conservation Minister Nick Smith announced his decision to decline the application on Thursday, saying the proposal didn't stack up economically or environmentally.
"The independent tourism and financial analysis concluded it was not viable," he said.
"There would be a significant impact on the area's flora, fauna and natural heritage. The route is not sufficiently defined to properly assess the impacts."
Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says the decision is the right one.
"We are really pleased, this is a victory for people and a victory for the environment," she said.
"I think it's very difficult for them to destroy a world heritage site in an election year, but credit to Nick Smith, who has made the right decision."
Labour's conservation spokeswoman Ruth Dyson has praised the decision as a win for common sense.
"The monorail would have had a major impact on a special part of Fiordland which is a mecca for trampers and visitors to New Zealand," she said.
"New Zealanders were loud and clear in their opposition to this, with thousands signing a petition opposing the monorail."
Southland District Mayor Gary Tong says he had grave concerns about the economics of the project.
"This decision is good news for sustainable tourism opportunities in the area," he said.
Mr Tong doubted the monorail would have many benefits for the Te Anau community or Southland.
"Council has been opposed to this project because of the pristine nature of the area."
Forest and Bird spokeswoman Sue Maturin says the monorail plans were unrealistic from the beginning.
"There is no way the applicant could have restored the old growth forest, tussock grasslands or wetlands the project would have destroyed."
If the monorail was built and failed, Dr Smith said he had received advice that it would cost hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to remove.
"A concern for me was that with a very questionable financial viability, you'll end up with a massive white elephant in a conservation area that ultimately the taxpayer would have to put the bill up for," he said.
The monorail's developers, Riverstone Holdings, say Dr Smith's decision came as a surprise and they're deeply disappointed.