New Zealand rejects National Park link 18 Jul 2013
NZ Conservation Department News Release
Plans to excavate an 11.3km x 5m diameter single bored tunnel under two National Parks and a World Heritage site have been rejected after more than 18 months of environmental reviews.
But developer Milford Dart Ltd has not given up on the NZ$180 million plan and has already outlined an alternative proposal that would extend the tunnel by a further 2km and relocate the eastern entrance portal 3km to the south east.
  • Tunnel would have cut popular tourist journey times

    Tunnel would have cut popular tourist journey times

  • Milford Sound attracts 420,000 visitors

    Milford Sound attracts 420,000 visitors

The original proposal, from a private company that wanted to operate the tunnel as a bus-only route to run its own fleet of specially-adapted vehicles through, would have cut the popular tourist journey from Queenstown to the spectacularly scenic Milford Sound by five hours, making it possible to visit on a day trip. About 420,000 visitors make the 18-hour round trip each year.
But New Zealand Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith yesterday rejected the proposal amid fears that the developer - Milford Dart Ltd - had underestimated the cost of the project and that there was a risk the government would be left to either complete or make safe a half-finished tunnel.

Existing Queensland-Milford Sound route takes 9 hours

Smith said: "I have concerns about the economic viability and safety of this tunnel proposal. These issues are interrelated in that making a long narrow tunnel safe requires huge investment in ventilation and emergency systems. I am not satisfied that the tunnel can be safely built for a price that makes it economically viable. The risk for the Government under these circumstances is that corners are cut or the project is left half-completed with a clean-up liability for the public."
He added: "This is a significant decision and I have given it a great deal of thought and consideration. I have met the applicants, studied the major reports, sought thorough advice, visited the site, and weighed up strong views of both the supporters and opponents."
"But there are three major reasons for declining this tunnel application. The first is that depositing half a million tonne of tunnel spoil would permanently damage the natural and landscape values in Hollyford Valley. The second is the impact of the new roads and portals at each end. My third concern is that the engineering works and tunnel are inconsistent with the Fiordland and Mt Aspiring National Park Management Plans."
"Milford Dart Ltd late last week outlined an alternative tunnel that would be approximately 2km longer and which would relocate the eastern portal about 3km south east. This is a significantly different proposal on which I have not received any technical advice, and of which neither the public nor the hearing commissioner has had the opportunity to consider. I have determined that I have insufficient information to make a decision on this alternative."
New Zealand concedes proposed park route - TunnelTalk, November 2011

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