The Fiordland monorail

August 15th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Simon Moutter’s first media statement since taking over the helm at Telecom this week has nothing to do with the telco.

In a news release from Fiordland Link Experience Moutter is quoted at length putting his weight behind initiatives, including Fiordland’s proposed monorail.

Company spokesman John Beattie said the former Auckland International Airport chief executive believed it was vital for New Zealand to keep developing world-class tourism projects.

In today’s statement, Moutter calls for public support for new initiatives to sustain not only the sector, but jobs as well.

To be bold, the industry had to adapt to a changing world. Failing to do so would see the country fall behind, he said.

“The proposed Fiordland Link Experience, which will include the longest monorail journey in the world, is an example of the sort of ambitious privately funded tourism project this country needs to consider.

“This is the sort of product that I believe would be attractive to the high-value, shorter stay, new markets that will be vital to New Zealand’s tourism future so it merits serious consideration.”

I think the monorail project is a great win-win. It will be a significant tourist attraction, but also will reduce the need for such long car journeys, benefiting the .

A sleek monorail is also sympathetic to the conservation values. The magnificent Kuranda area rainforest is enhanced by the Skyrail which allows people to get into its heart without driving up the hill.

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35 Responses to “The Fiordland monorail”

  1. RRM (10,099 comments) says:

    When they say “Fiordland Monorail” – does that mean the idea of being able to ride over a shortcut from Queenstown to Milford Sound?

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  2. Martin Gibson (248 comments) says:

    I guess I’d better say it before someone else does:

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  3. James Stephenson (2,267 comments) says:

    @RRM Here: http://www.fiordlandlink.com/route_maps.htm

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  4. RRM (10,099 comments) says:

    James – Thanks, that looks very cool.

    But they should get Barry Brickell (Driving Creek Railway, Coromandel) on board as a consultant, I am sure he would have some ideas that would get them moving a lot quicker and cheaper!

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  5. voice of reason (490 comments) says:

    So what happens to those operators in Te Anau who already do a great job servicing Milford bound tourists ?
    The monorail project is actually 4 modes of transport, Hi speed catamaran 20km across Wakatipu, then all terrain vehicles 45km journey, Then 78km on monorail and finally a 90minute bus journey, How does that benefit the environment? The entire “monorail project” journey is not about making access easier, it’s about one company capturing the bulk of teh market right from Queenstown with the help of DOC.

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  6. Lance (2,713 comments) says:

    @VOR

    Because it takes all day to go the long way round which burns more fuel. Looks attractive to me in respect of both scenery and efficiency, if not then the tourists will endure the present expedition.

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  7. Jimbo (43 comments) says:

    I’m reasonably confident this will never be built as monorails generally need large injections of public money to get them going and keep them going. There’s a reason that Sydney’s monorail is being dismantled right now.

    On the other hand, there are many opportunities for public money to be wasted by all levels of government so maybe my confidence is misplaced. Keep an eye out too for favourable law changes that will allow the owners all kinds of resource consent dispensations and future monopoly protections.

    This is the sort of project that should rank alongside such brilliant ideas as the Sesqui Centennial exposition, Dunedin’s stadium, reconstruction of the Rimutaka Incline, Christchurch’s monorail project, the escalator to nowhere, the jell-o tower…

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  8. RRM (10,099 comments) says:

    VOR –

    I doubt the Monorail experience will be $20pp return. Being a tourist operation they will rape people for as much as they think they can get away with. And then The Market will sort out how many people still prefer to drive their car/campervan or take the bus around via Te Anau….
    All Hail The Market ;-)

    Jimbo –
    Darling Harbour monorail is being dismantled because it SUCKS BALLS! Goes nowhere, not much faster than you can walk, so nobody uses it much. This project would could not be more different.

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  9. Pete George (23,804 comments) says:

    I think an alternate part route to Milford is long overdue. I don’t know if both proposals are viable (this one and the tunnel alternative) but at least one should be approved.

    It could be tough on some Te Anau businesses for a while but they should adapt, and in time the whole area should benefit.

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  10. thedavincimode (6,890 comments) says:

    I hope for Auckland’s sake that looney Len doesn’t hear about this or worse, watch that Simpsons clip.

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  11. Colville (2,318 comments) says:

    The hunters out there (I am one) hate the idea with a vengance. The monorail plans call for something like 10,000 acres of no go for hunting area created, 20,000 trees felled and 1,500 conrete pylons built.

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  12. Lance (2,713 comments) says:

    @Colville
    So that’s like ‘to hell with everyone else, as long as I have a vast wilderness to myself’?

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  13. Jimbo (43 comments) says:

    RRM – yes the project might be different, but those differences actually make this project worse:

    1. It will be the longest stretch of monorail in the world. Some parts of it will be difficult to access.
    2. It will be the only one servicing a non-urban area.

    The high maintenance costs (linked to the length and the debris that will end up on the line) will make the banks run away. If you can guarantee a hundred trains an hour transporting 200 passengers each you might have a chance. Everything I’ve seen indicates a single line monorail with a capacity of much less.

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  14. Colville (2,318 comments) says:

    Lance, absofuckenlutely :-)

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  15. RRM (10,099 comments) says:

    Colville –

    The South Island wilderness is a pretty big place. I’m sure you’ll cope.

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  16. Colville (2,318 comments) says:

    and its not much of a wilderness if you have a monorail plowing thru at 90km/hr is it?

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  17. insider (845 comments) says:

    Wilderness is overrated. A bare hill is just a bare hill but put a steeple on top and it becomes a landmark, something of human interest. But you can’t because ridgelines are almost sacred under the RMA. We are way too overanalytical and precious when it comes to so called unspoilt wildernesses.

    The Milford Road and Homer Tunnel would face similar objections if tried to be built today. Yet look at all the wonder and opportunity they provide.

    PS I suspect the monorail will never be completed even if approved.

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  18. hmmokrightitis (1,596 comments) says:

    Dear Simon,

    Im the CEO of a small company that specialises in internet based solutions. I come from a background of various industry’s and consulting. As a CEO I know my role is to focus on what my company does and to make sure they do it better, particularly when Im in a competitive market.

    You’ll forgive me for saying so, and pointing out what might be bleeding obvious, but your job is at Telecom, selling data and phones and shit. Not fucking monorails.

    Do try harder.

    A. Shareholder.

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  19. rolla_fxgt (311 comments) says:

    @ Collville

    A bit of an exageration on the numbers and scale of the project.

    It’s one valley out of how many hundread in the Milford area alone.

    Its not like there’s any public money going into this (unlike the existing access), so I don’t really see what the problem is. Its one small area out of 100’s of thousands of hectares of special land in fiordland, and its not even in the national park.

    Have any of those against it actually done the journey from Queenstown to Milford return? Its horrendus, 9-10 hours in a bus is not fun, especially when the boat trip at the other end is only about an hour.
    Te Anau will still survive, and if they are smart instead of complaining they’ll try and work with the promoters to get tourists to come back to Te Anau as a side loop before heading back to Queenstown. Or maybe even offer deals to get them to stay in Te Anau overnight and head back on the monorail the next morning.

    But I do have a concern over the supposed contract with Ngai Tahu as part of a treaty settlement, that if a project such as the monorail is allowed in the area, then Ngai Tahu can do their project as of right. And we all know that Ngai Tahu enjoys tax benefits due to its tourism arms ownership structure, which would give them a huge advantage over any competitor, even if they used the competitors actions to get access in the first place.

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  20. minto57 (197 comments) says:

    Its not a monorail its a monopoly

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  21. voice of reason (490 comments) says:

    hmmokrightitis (723): +1 Fuckin A

    rolla_fxget: “…Queenstown to Milford return? Its horrendus, 9-10 hours in a bus is not fun…” Exactly, thats good reason for an overnight in Te Anau.

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  22. insider (845 comments) says:

    @ minto

    the existing road makes a nonsense of your statement.

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  23. Nigel (493 comments) says:

    Through Mt Nicholas station, been a long time since I went through there ( think 1982 ), the advantage is you don’t cause chaos to Glenorchie and it avoids going through the national park.

    It’s still a 3 hour journey ( 1 hour bus at the end from Te Anau Downs, 1.5 hours the three legs in, 1/2 hour for the 3 stops ).

    Saving at best an hour to Milford Sound, maybe 30 minutes.

    Not worth it, I think it’ll fail.

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  24. Paulus (2,711 comments) says:

    The times we have been to Queenstown and wished to go to Milford, but the thought of 5 hours each way in a coach rules it out.
    Look forward to going on this new boat/monorail.
    Great for New Zealand.

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  25. trout (955 comments) says:

    I have no problem with the proposed tunnel but I believe that the monorail will be an environmental disaster. Those that enjoy the Fiordland wilderness experience are becoming increasingly aware of the pressure from entrepreneurs who land in Queenstown and look around to see how they can make a buck out of exploiting the attraction of the National Parks. Unfortunately DOC is cashed strapped and vulnerable to being bought off by the attraction of concession fees. You can walk for 2 days into the backcountry to enjoy wilderness fishing in isolation and have a helicopter land up the river in front of you and disgorge a bunch of fat Americans and all their paraphenalia. Or walk the Milford track and be serenaded by the continual noise of helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. The route of the monorail is through a particularly beautiful area of fiordland – it is accessible, less rugged and easygoing for inexperienced tramper. The kind of country that must be preserved in a pristine state for future generations. Even from a tourist industry point of view it must be obvious that the the continual degradation of the natural environment is only going to keep visitors away.

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  26. Pete George (23,804 comments) says:

    Te Anau will still survive, and if they are smart instead of complaining they’ll try and work with the promoters to get tourists to come back to Te Anau as a side loop before heading back to Queenstown. Or maybe even offer deals to get them to stay in Te Anau overnight and head back on the monorail the next morning.

    Many of the tour buses don’t go to Te Anau. There’s a lot bus to and from Queenstown (and clog up the road).

    There’s also a procession of light planes in and out, too many at times.

    If there’s a monorail or tunnel alternative some will do that one way and one of the other’s on return – if they are going back to Queenstown.

    Many of the ones who travel in their own (or rental) vehicles will still go to and stay in Te Anau. And Te Anau has it’s own attractions – I enjoy the Deep Cove trip (from nearby Manapouri) at least as much as the Milford trip, it’s a different but magnificent experience in it’s own right.

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  27. KH (695 comments) says:

    Monorail and Tunnel are both dumb. Comes from a long tradition of clueless business people who have been killing the golden goose that was Queenstown. What a dump they have managed to make that place. How to shoot yourself in the commercial foot.

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  28. RRM (10,099 comments) says:

    Minto57:

    The Queenstown Gondola is a monopoly too. OH NOES!!! Better get that shut down ASAP, eh?

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  29. rolla_fxgt (311 comments) says:

    @ Pete George, the buses all go through Te Anau to get to Milford. There is no other road for buses to take. Hence why the locals in Te Anau are complaining about loss of business.

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  30. trout (955 comments) says:

    The main business in Te Anau to benefit from the present setup is the guy that makes venison pies (and of course the public toilet that charges a $ for use). 70-100 buses a day make the trip from Queenstown to Milford with a comfort stop in Te Anau. I doubt their removal would be a great loss to Te Anau business; Te Anau is a prime tourist destination in its own right. The Tunnel looks to have minimal impact and real benefits.

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  31. PaulL (5,449 comments) says:

    No way this will ever get up. Monorails are prohibitively expensive, and this one would have exceptionally low usage. Great concept, other options will prove to get most of the result for far less money spent.

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  32. mmmm (13 comments) says:

    I’m in the tourism business in Qtwn and an alternative access route into Milford (tunnel or monorail privately funded) is a must. There is already a monopoly on companies that coach and fly/helipcopter people into this area with Real Journeys receiving the lions share. Businesses in Te Anau need to adapt, recognise they are a tourism destination in their own right and invest in their town & own attractions if that is the market they want to play in.
    The buses that stop in Te Anau aren’t shopping but are on quick pit stops, nothing more, all lunches etc are catered for by the boat companies in Milford which in the majority of cases also are the owners of the coach companies -again Real Journeys is the biggest winner here as well as a Skyline owned company Totally Tourism which operates both flights/helicopters/coaches and boats into and on Milford Sound. These are not mum & dad companies that are going to lose out if either the tunnel or monorail goes through. Ecologically, once they are operationally both options will have less impact on the environment then the current convey of buses down there each day. As for hunting – with both options only a very limited amount of the hundreds of thousands of hectres of land will be impacted. Time for progress.

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  33. expat (4,050 comments) says:

    I must say the reason Milford Sound is such a tourist draw-card is because of it’s Wilderness status not because it’s full of geriatric package tourists being shuttled in and out by monopoly tourism operators. Perhaps RJ’s should invest in a 5* hotel in Milford Sound if they want to a) add value to NZ Inc’s tourism operations and b) tie up the Tourism Value Chain between Te Anau and Milford Sound.

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  34. RRM (10,099 comments) says:

    :-o You say it’s NOT full of geriatric package tourists being shuttled in and out by monopoly tourism operators…??

    That doesn’t sound like the Milford Sound I saw…

    I can’t remember how many tour buses were stacked up in the turnaround at the end of the road, in front of the row of tour boats the last time I was there. There were so many….

    It’s a bit commercial, yes; but the mountains and the sea are real, and the facilities there sure beat walking out to Milford from Queenstown, dragging your own tin dinghy behind you…

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  35. BigFish (132 comments) says:

    Personally, I think it’s dumb. Let the wilderness be wild. We’re not attracting tourists who are wanting a theme park ride.
    And the ones that do want theme parks will only leave their McDonalds wrappers behind.
    Part of the attraction is its inaccessibility – that’s what makes it seem a bit more intrepid, more exclusive, more special for those who want to visit (and far more of a money maker because of that exclusivity).
    May as well put a monorail up to the top of Mount Cook. Hey, why not make it a roller coaster.

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