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Campaign against Fiordland tunnel gains momentum

Published: 11:48AM Monday July 23, 2012 Source: ONE News

Around 200 people turned up at a public meeting in Queenstown last night to protest against proposed road tunnels in Southland.

South Island company Riverstone Holdings is proposing a monorail as a shortcut for tourists travelling from Queenstown to Te Anau.

"You've got to adapt or else you die in this new world of ours in relation to tourism... what we are talking about here is an absolutely first class tourism initiative," John Beattie, a developer for Riverstone holdings, told TV ONE's Sunday last night.

Similarly, tourism developers Milford Dart Ltd is suggesting a $160 million privately owned 11.3 kilometre tunnel behind Glenorchy.

But the Glenorchy-based Stop the Tunnel campaign and the Save Fiordland group say they are against the idea of a tunnel being built through conservation land.

The Stop the Tunnel group says it now has a petition with 23,000 signatures against the proposal.

"To create access to the tunnel will mean widening the Routeburn Road and Hollyford Roads which will lead to the destruction of ancient beech trees, bird and bat habitat, and will destroy the peacefulness and tranquillity of the region," states the petition letter on the Stop the Tunnel website.

Stop the Tunnel spokesperson Amanda Hasselman says the aim of the public meeting was to engage Queenstown people in the fight against the tunnel.

"This could be in the form of supporting existing groups such as Stop the Tunnel and Save Fiordland or by forming a specific Queenstown Against the Tunnel group that would add another voice to the campaign," she said.

"We really need Queenstown's help. This issue affects us all and future generations of New Zealanders."

Hasselman said if Queenstown joins the campaign the likelihood of the Government rejecting the proposal will increase.

She said building a tunnel in the Fiordland and Mount Aspiring National Park "violates the democratic process".

"It contradicts both Park Management Plans, goes against recommendations of Otago and Southland Conservation Boards, and sets a precedent for previously unacceptable, commercial activity in our National Parks treasured by people locally and around the world for its pristine wilderness," she said.

The Save Fiordland website outlines its key points opposing the monorail as environmental consequences, visitors being diverted away from the Southern Scenic route, which would affect Te Anau, and that there are already forms of access to Milford Sound to Queenstown.

The Department of Conservation is considering both road tunnel proposals.

"You have to indicate an intention so you can have a public consultation, and that is just the trigger mechanism [for the discussion]," Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson told Sunday.