Nick says no to tunnel

Conservation Nick Smith has said no to the tunnel project proposed by Milford Dart Limited, through the Fiordland and Mt Aspiring National Parks.

I am declining this tunnel proposal because the environmental impacts are significant and beyond what is appropriate in two of New Zealand’s most spectacular National Parks and a World Heritage Area,” Dr Smith says.

The five-metre diameter, 11.3-kilometre long, one lane bus tunnel was proposed between the Dart Valley, adjacent to the Routeburn Track, through to Hollyford Valley. The $180 million project would have halved the travel time for the 420,000 visitors per year who visit Milford Sound.

“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,” he says.

“There are three major reasons for declining this tunnel application. The first is that depositing half a million tonnes 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, and particularly the impacts on visitors at the entrance to the Routeburn track. My third concern is that the engineering works and tunnel are inconsistent with the Fiordland and Mt Aspiring National Park Management Plans.

“I also 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.

“Milford Dart Ltd late last week outlined an alternative tunnel that would be approximately two kilometres longer and which would relocate the eastern portal about three kilometres 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.

“I appreciate my decision will be a disappointment to the applicants and their supporters. I do not in any way criticise them for their entrepreneurial spirit or ambition to ease access for the hundreds of thousands of people who visit Milford Sound. This is a conservative decision in which I have decided that nature deserves the benefit of any doubt.”

When I first heard of this proposal I wondered about the safety of a tunnel built near the alpine fault line.

Safety is one of the issues the Minister took into account but he also took into account conservation values and decided, rightly I think, that these should take precedence over possible economic gains.

I am not opposed to any and all development in National Parks but think the impact of this one could not have been justified by the negative impact on the area.

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13 Responses to Nick says no to tunnel

  1. inventory2 says:

    Agreed Ele, and I daresay that even your Green friends will applaud Smith for this decision, which has come after a long and thorough period of consideration. I am sure that Nick Smith’s professional experience in geotechnical engineering will have helped him in his assessment of the safety side of things.

  2. Viv K says:

    Credit where credit is due, thank you Dr Smith. This decision also will save the taxpayer the cost of upgrading the Glenorchy road to take all those buses.

  3. jabba says:

    the Gweens are already taking credit for this decision.

  4. robertguyton says:

    Good. Saying ‘no’ to exploitative projects that ruin natural landscapes is the right thing to do. I hope Nick continues in that vein. I don’t expect he will.

  5. Viv K says:

    Do you have a speech impediment that you like to display in writing jabba? Or is it just that you can’t spell?

  6. Armchair Critic says:

    It’s a good decision. Nick Smith’s geotechnical engineering experience is way out of date. He’s been an MP since 1990, and his professional experience must pre-date that. Having said that, I’d rather he was making the decision than anyone else in the National caucus.

  7. jabba says:

    I can’t spull Vik V .. do you have a problem with that?

  8. jabba says:

    really AC, so who is the expert for the Gweens, sorry Greens, Labour, Winny1st, or “Mana” who would be the alternative minister in Govt .. can’t wait the hear.

  9. Armchair Critic says:

    How is that relevant, and what makes you think I know, or care?

  10. jabba says:

    Of course it’s relevant .. you have slagged off Nick Smith accusing him of being out of date. If the Nats were NOT the Govt, one of the parties above would have an MP doing this job and I assume you think they would be better qualified. So who is it .. nah, don’t bother answering as I already know the answer.

  11. Armchair Critic says:

    Toughen up jabba. If you want to dispute my statement you could turn up with proof that Nick Smith has practiced, as a professional geotechnical engineer more recently. Some time this millennium, perhaps. Or you could show that engineering experience from 23 years ago is recent.
    Until you can do that what I’ve done is state a fact, and that’s not slagging off anyone.

  12. jabba says:

    yep bOb, you belong to the ultimate NO party .. anyway, it’s been an eye opener “meeting” you bOb, goodby

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