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Minister to decide Fiordland projects

Sunday 24 Feb 2013 4:36 p.m.

Conservation Minister Nick Smith will decide on the future of two controversial private sector tourism projects in Fiordland national parks

Conservation Minister Nick Smith will decide on the future of two controversial private sector tourism projects in Fiordland national parks

Conservation Minister Nick Smith says he will decide on the future of two controversial tourism projects in national parks in Fiordland.

One proposal is to build an 11.3km single-lane tunnel to link the Routeburn and Hollyford roads in Mt Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks.

The other is to build a monorail and all-terrain vehicle track to improve access to the scenic Milford Sound. Its promoters argue that the Milford Sound experience is tired, with tourists arriving on a convoy of buses at the same time, making the remote area appear congested.

Former Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson was criticised for dodging decisions on the controversial projects, which have been the subject of public consultations.

"I have decided that given the scale of these Fiordland projects and the huge public interest it is not appropriate for these decisions to be delegated to a departmental official," Dr Smith said.

"These are public lands and it is proper that these decisions are made by a publicly elected and accountable official."

He said there was a particularly high threshold for projects in national parks but New Zealand also needed jobs and economic development.

Dr Smith expects to receive Department of Conservation reports on the Milford Dart Tunnel project soon, and advice is due on the Fiordland Link Experience in the next few months.

NZN

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