Tunnel Vision Vandalism
Milford Dart: Destruction plans for Paradise
There is a place in New Zealand called Paradise. It is located north of the end of the world, in the endless virgin forests past Glenorchy, the last township on Lake Wakatipu. Narrow unsealed roads lead to the access points of some of the famous Great Walks of New Zealand, like the Routeburn Track.
The few people in Glenorchy lead quiet and laid-back lives, far away from the noise of busy Queenstown. Tourists travel to and past Glenorchy exactly for this peace and quiet which they usually have to share with the zillions of sandflies only. You can hear the sounds of nature and silence there. Endangered wildlife like kiwi, kea and the takahe live in this remote region which is so isolated that parts of the Lord of the Rings trilogy were filmed there.
And now a consortium named Milford Dart Limited wants to turn the scenic road between Queenstown and Glenorchy and the unsealed routes through the forests past the last inhabited place into a highway for tourist buses, filled with travellers who according to those great thinkers cannot spare four hours of their lives to drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound on the existing roads via Te Anau, and build a carpark in the middle of nowhere in Mt. Aspiring National Park.
The World Heritage status is under threat
Currently (20 April 2012) the World Heritage List includes 936 properties forming part of the cultural and natural heritage which the World Heritage Committee considers as having outstanding universal value.
These include 725 cultural,
183 natural and 28 mixed properties in 153 countries.
The journey would continue in an 11.3 km bus tunnel. Travel time would be halved from four to two hours, yes, really, and more tourists would be herded to Milford Sound. And - believe it or not - the tunnel is for buses only, so only ONE private tour company can cash in on the time-saving monstrosity, and the short-cut does not serve individual travellers in their own or rented vehicles. Only the buses of Milford Dart would be allowed in, so business would be taken away from other companies who have been operating Milford Sound for ages.
On the other side of the 11.3 km tunnel is the Hollyford Valley, an equally pristine region in Fiordland National Park. Where you now find virgin forests with century-old trees you would have a big carpark and the technical facilities which would be needed to operate the tunnel, including the ventilation system.
We have such a facility in Lyttelton at the end of a 2.2 km tunnel, and it is not pretty. But Lyttelton does not lie in the centre of an untouched forest in a World Heritage area, and the tunnel is essential to link Christchurch and its port and the township of Lyttelton.
Nothing of that can be said about the proposed Milford Dart Tunnel.
"Te Wahipounamu comprises the least-disturbed tenth of New Zealand's land mass, with some 2 million hectares of temperate rainforest, 450 km of alpine communities, and a distinctive fauna. It contains the best modern representation of the ancient flora and fauna of Gondwanaland, including Podocarpus species, genera of beech, flightless kiwis, 'bush' moas and carnivorous Powelliphanta land snails. [...]
The landscape in this park [...] has been shaped by successive glaciations into fjords, rocky coasts, towering cliffs, lakes and waterfalls. Two-thirds of the park is covered with southern beech and podocarps, some of which are over 800 years old. The kea, the only alpine parrot in the world, lives in the park, as does the rare and endangered takahe, a large flightless bird."
(Note: Te Wahipounamu includes Westland and Mt. Cook National Parks further north.)
Why UNESCO recognised
Te Wahipounamu as a World Heritage site:
Already the thought of destroying such unspoiled landscapes for the sake of big bucks only one single operator would sack in is mind-boggling. On top of that, Milford Sound does not need more tourists, it is already overrun and degraded with the noise of helicopter and other scenic flights. Glenorchy is happy with the way it is and the people who visit just because of that.
But since several years already some reckless business people have been telling us that New Zealand needs this tunnel. Others even suggest we need a monorail in Fiordland National Park. We and New Zealand's economy.
What world are we living in if we need an 11.3 km tunnel (where the people cannot see the breaktaking landscape they are traversing) to make people save four hours of their lives on a return trip to New Zealand's most famous fiord?!
1. Do we need tourists who want to see the entire world in severn days?
2. Does money count and nothing else? Does money justify the reckless destruction of nature? Will the dollars earned with the tunnel rip-off make up for the lost income of people who stay away because of the degradation of the experience?
3. Can we tolerate such a tunnel vision where everything we cherish is sacrificed for the greed and the commercial gain of a few?
4. And do they really believe New Zealand South-West (Te Wahipounamu) will keep its UNESCO World Heritage status if they turn chunks of it into carparks and ventilation facilities? The Elbe Valley near Dresden has lost its status by just building a bridge.
It is unbelievable that New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DOC) has given notice that it intents to grant permission to Milford Dart Ltd to construct this bus tunnel in Fiordland & Mt Aspiring National Parks which are, as said earlier, both situated in the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage area.
Interestingly enough DOC had declined to grant permission to this plan in 2007. In the meantime we have a new government (National) that has cut funding to DOC and told the department that it should become more business-orientated. Last night (19 April 2012) Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson - the same minister who supported the farmer with the cows pooing into Lake Ellesmere - declined to comment on the topic in "Campbell live" (a well-known public affairs programme on TV3).
According to the data in the Business Directory of New Zealand one of the six directors of Milford Dart Ltd - five men from Christchurch and one from Wanaka - is Sir Tipene O'Regan. He is a director of a wide range of South Island Maori enterprises and best known for his role as chairman of the Ngāi Tahu Maori Trust Board.
I find it hypocritical when a well-known man of the South Island's biggest Maori tribe is director of a company that intends to destroy nature, as Maori are the self-proclaimed conservationists and saviours of nature in this country. I wonder if they would say their karakia (prayer) before felling 500 or 700 year old trees?
The opponents of the plan say in the wording of their petition that "the proposed plan violates the National Park Policy of New Zealand saying that no new roads will be built in National Parks".
They also see, as I do, that the World Heritage status of the region will be in jeopardy, as a commercial construction would violate the preservation and protection of special places for the benefit of all. They fear that going forward with the project "will result in the loss of many nature caring, discerning international travellers & New Zealanders normally visiting this region". And finally they say that "the Tourism New Zealand slogan '100% Pure' will become a worldwide lie if the construction of this bus tunnel would be granted".
Unfortunately this is already true without the tunnel project. It would just be another lie, with the difference that this would be obvious to visitors, unlike the invisible degradation of nature, the polluted lakes and rivers. Are you surprised that the Prime Minister's second role is that of Tourism Minister?
I nearly enjoy the idea of a tunnel on the Great Alpine Fault. This surely would raise the tourists' excitement of getting to experience an earthquake right where it happens... Ah, just joking. But also this proves that they just don't care about anything as long as big bucks are looming at the horizon.
You can sign the petition against the Milford Dart Tunnel here:
Link to a well researched article on the project in The Listener:
Link to story in the Sunday Star Times (22.07.2012): http://www.stuff.co.nz/sunday-star-times/latest-edition/7322493/A-tunnel-runs-through-it-oh-and-a-monorail
Link to the video on TVNZ's story on "Sunday" (22.07.2012) where one of the developers reveals his irresponsibility - he says in case of a fire in the one-lane tunnel it would "become very warm", as there is no safety plan in place: http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/campaign-against-fiordland-tunnel-gains-momentum-4981137/video
New protest group
The Fairfax media report that a new protest group has formed to protest against the Milford Dart Tunnel project as well against the monorail project proposed for Fiordland (30/05/2012).
They write: "A former Department of Conservation employee, a prominent businessman and Southland District mayor Frana Cardno are involved in a new group opposing the proposed Milford Dart Tunnel and Fiordland monorail. A meeting was held on Sunday to establish a community interest group to continue opposition to the projects."
And further: "Former Southland Conservancy concessions manager Colin Pemberton said opposition to the projects needed to remain in the public eye. 'The Te Anau and greater Southland community can't afford to now sit back and remain silent while the decision process is taking place', he said. 'People need to think about the future consequences if DOC confirms its original decision to agree in principle to grant consent.'
A public meeting to formalise the group and form a committee will be held on 26 June 2012 at the Distinction Te Anau Hotel.
The whole article here:
Petition against the equally crazy monorail proposal which would link Queenstown and Milford Sound with a combined boat, bus and monorail trip here.