Monorail declined but door open for alternative?

30 May 14

When declining Riverstone Holdings’ proposed monorail from Kiwi Burn to Te Anau Downs Minister of Conservation Nick Smith stated that “given the highly valued and spectacular landscapes” of the World Heritage Area through which the Monorail would travel, he was required to “err on the side of nature.”

In doing so he has however firmly left the door open for an “environmentally sustainable and economically viable” transport option between Queenstown and Milford Sound.

Any such proposal will have to pass the high threshold that the monorail proposal failed to meet. The Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area is made up of a range of conservation land, up to and including national parks and wilderness areas, the highest ranking of conservation land. The Minister’s comments in his decision of 29 May make it clear that the information required to provide certainty around the financial viability and environmental impacts of any development on this type of conservation land must meet stringent standards.

The Otago and Southland Conservation Management Strategies (CMS) that provide the policy and regulatory control over this part of New Zealand are currently under review. Draft Strategies were released in 2013 for submissions and hearings were held. As early as July draft recommendations may be provided to the relevant conservation boards for consideration, after which time the boards must make decisions and recommendations to the New Zealand Conservation Authority. The content of the final CMS will clarify the management regimes and outcomes for the various parts of the World Heritage Area, directing what future development is likely to be compatible with conservation values, and what is likely to face similar hurdles to the now abandoned monorail proposal.

Anderson Lloyd is New Zealand’s leading law firm on conservation issues and the conservation estate. If you have any questions in this area please contact Maree Baker-Galloway, counsel for the submitters who successfully opposed the monorail concession application.