The road to Milford

March 2nd, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Geoff Cumming at NZ Herald reports:

It is the holy grail of New Zealand tourism: easing the path to for domestic and international tourists without destroying what lures them there in the first place – its scenery, ecological value and remoteness.

For decades, tourism entrepreneurs have laid schemes at the door of the Conservation Department without quite prising it open, from a coastal road defying engineering conventions to a gondola.

Now, DoC has allowed two proposals a foot in the door – one a bus-only tunnel with approach roads through two national parks; the other a “back-country experience” involving boat, 4WD bus and monorail. Both promise to cut in half the circuitous 4hr road journey from Queenstown to Milford around Lakes Wakatipu and Te Anau. The applicants plan international marketing to bring an estimated 20,000 extra visitors a year to New Zealand, targeting time-poor tourists who want the greatest hits at speed.

I would have thought environmentalists would be keen to support a tunnel that means that you don’t have scores of buses driving several hundred extra kms a day. But the reality is that many of them are preservationists – they oppose all change.

Opponents argue that getting there is half the fun: the existing route takes in outstanding natural landscapes

It’s simple. If there is a choice of routes, then everyone can be happy. It is true there are some good stops on the way, but the four hour trip back doesn’t see anything new. Some operators could do a loop – drive down via Te Anau but come back directly. That would mean that tourists would gain an extra two hours in Milford itself.

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40 Responses to “The road to Milford”

  1. Johnboy (17,018 comments) says:

    The only way for folk to enjoy the great outdoors according to the greenie bastards is THEIR WAY.

    Get your boots on and carry your pack of scroggin and bloody well enjoy the back country OUR way or fuck off!

    Time they were dealt to! :)

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  2. tvb (4,518 comments) says:

    This will be opposed by the Greens as they oppose anything and everything that involves development. They want a simple agrarian economy that can possibly feed a few hundred thousand. The rest will starve.

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  3. RF (1,454 comments) says:

    Having spent some time in the area I agree that it should be opened up to more tourists.

    I can just see the wanking green party flying in protestors to Queenstown leaving a huge carbon footprint. I have seen these luddites close up and they are a strange lot. They tend to smell of BO and could benefit from a good soaking in a bath and plenty of lye soap.

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  4. Akld Commercial Lawyer (166 comments) says:

    DPF, you are at risk of committing the same sin on this issue (i.e. guilty of not doing your homework – and being glib as a result). There is plenty of resource available – and not just from the Save Fiordland lobbyists. Some of the stuff in the library – such as Ed Hillary or his friend Dr Mike Gill and some of those knarly old hunters is a good example of what will be lost if this area is accessible other than the hard way. Also, from where I sit, the issue with the tunnel proposal is fundamentally the same as that with the monorail – its the roading through two national parks and the risk of turning pristine wilderness into Disneyland that is the problem. Please take the time to look very closely at the proposals. By all means be cynical about some (but I suggest not all) of the opposition. And apply some of your own experiences – I recall that you have walked the Routeburn. Surely one of NZ’s greatest walks because you get to sample the size and scale of Fiordland and get above the snowline in parts. The road for the tunnel proposal is adjacent to the track! There are others ways of fostering development without turning an area of world heritage status into the sort of tourist experience that you get in (say) Switzerland. I suggest that’s what people come to NZ to get away from. And if there is an argument that the elderly or infirm are disadvantaged because they can’t get there – then I don’t see why we should be apologetic about it. Instead, they will have to get their grandkids to tell them about it. If we start making the remotest parts of NZ into something that it isn’t – then I fully expect that we might have some explaining to do to the next generation. I am not anti-development but having done my homework I don’t buy the PR that either proposal is discrete or right sized for some of our remotest backcountry. Enough

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  5. AG (1,832 comments) says:

    I would have thought environmentalists would be keen to support a tunnel that means that you don’t have scores of buses driving several hundred extra kms a day.

    How many buses have to drive how many kilometers to equal the carbon emissions associated with drilling an 11.3 km tunnel (and upgrading the road to/from it)?

    It’s simple. If there is a choice of routes, then everyone can be happy.

    Except, of course, for the people of Glenorchy who will see upwards of 80 tour buses a day heading through their hamlet without pausing. Or the trampers along the Routeburn, who will have the sound of buses changing gear added to that of helicopters as they walk the first leg. Or anyone wanting to walk the Hollyford track, if leachate from the 286,000 square meters of fill that will be dumped alongside the Hollyford River gets into it.

    There’s a somewhat more balanced discussion of this proposal here: http://www.stuff.co.nz/southland-times/life-style/6378675/Turmoil-over-tunnel

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  6. MT_Tinman (3,263 comments) says:

    Best way to experience a Milford day trip from Queenstown is to bus in, fly out.

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  7. Johnboy (17,018 comments) says:

    Best way to experience Fiordland is chopper in, kill wapiti (or three), chopper out! :)

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  8. MT_Tinman (3,263 comments) says:

    Never been into shooting my dinner Johnboy but if you had’ve mentioned some of those massive brown trout in the streams around the area I would certainly agree with you.

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  9. dime (10,134 comments) says:

    i thought lefties were “PROGRESSIVE”. what gives?

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  10. Paulus (2,672 comments) says:

    It will not happen – either suggestion.
    When Greenpeace /Labour Party get in it will all be kiboshed, as part of their agreement

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  11. RF (1,454 comments) says:

    The area that we are talking about down there is huge. I have walked the Routeburn, flown over the area in choppers, float planes and standard fixed wing and I believe that the small area involved in this venture would be a needle in a haystack.

    To be honest not many people go into the area as its just too difficult. How many missing aircraft are sitting down there ???

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  12. Fisiani (1,048 comments) says:

    There is also a great plan to build a road from Milford to Haast to open up the West Coast to tourism and save a massive round trip. This too is opposed by the nutters. The Green Luddites want nothing built. Nothing new. Nothing. Sheer nihilism.
    Imagine being in a voting booth in 2014 Do you want a forward looking Strong John Key led government or an unstable weak Labour/Green Taliban/ Winston First and racists/Hone Harawira ‘government’?

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  13. Johnboy (17,018 comments) says:

    How many Moose have never been found RF? :)

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  14. duggledog (1,589 comments) says:

    Personally I wouldn’t mind the tunnel, great for shuttling the passive tourists through so they can see Milford sound in two hours! Cheers thanks see ya.

    I will continue to use what will be the much less congested regular route which is almost as jaw dropping as Milford Sound itself. That part of the world continues to blow my mind every time I visit which is not nearly enough.

    Nothing built by man out in the open will last forever. Especially a few rail tracks or whatever. I say fuck it, build anything within reason to get some of that Chinese folding stuff. Ignore the Greens they’re all talk no action.

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  15. PTM (47 comments) says:

    All of these emotion laden arguments seem to be based on the premise that that the environment in these areas is static. ie, has always been the same as it is now and will stay the same until forever.
    Given the frivolous nature of the Alpine Fault and the rest of the geology in the area, things will change over time in ways we have no control over. It is elitist to suggest that only those who can don on a pair of tramping boots and sing campfire songs should have sole access and enjoyment of what after all is a publicly owned resource. We can at least limit the colateral damage of either of these proposals and bring the benefits of access to almost anyone who has a visit to the region on their bucket list, local or global.
    Wussels argument for the closing down of most if not all industrial activity on the West Coast in favour of increased tourist activity and people in the mining industry retraining as artists and sculptors can’t possibly work if nothing is done to bring substanially more people into the region with infrastructure designed to maximise the experience while at the same time feeding the visitors at a controlled rate with reduced bottle necks and maximised personal safety.
    Just get on with it please.

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  16. Johnboy (17,018 comments) says:

    Away away with billy and pack.
    Rollicking up the Routeburn track.
    We’ll all get lost and never come back.
    In the mighty Fiordland court cases.

    :)

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  17. RF (1,454 comments) says:

    Johnboy 5.54pm

    I have a close friend, who has a very outdoor type friend who gets dropped off in the Dusky Sound area by crayboats on a regular basis. A modern day Barry Crump. He swears that in 2008 he discovered fresh Moose sign in a valley that he refuses to disclose. This guy has been shooting in Alaska so is familar with the old moose. He is convinced that there is the odd moose in the area.

    I have my doubts but I must admit there are still areas down there where the white man has never stood. You could fire a shot in the bush down there and someone a 100 meters away would not hear it.

    I think the last moose was shot around 1956.

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  18. V (750 comments) says:

    Switzerland is proof that you can have both scenic beauty and accessibility for tourists. You can take a train up to Jungfraujoch at 3454m for gods sake.

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  19. Johnboy (17,018 comments) says:

    But you have to bore a hole through a mountain to do that for God’s sake V!!!!….Fuck, wait a minute! :)

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  20. Johnboy (17,018 comments) says:

    It was 1952 by Percy Lyes RF. Ken Tustin is still on the hunt 60 years later!

    http://www.odt.co.nz/regions/southland/163058/secret-snaps-reveal-elusive-fiordland-moose

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  21. godruelf (55 comments) says:

    Would have to say it would be good for the short time tourists. So long as the govt makes sure it has a good clip of the ticket for going through the DOC area.

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  22. wiseowl (936 comments) says:

    It’s obvious none of you have read Auckland Commercial lawyer.
    Humans just have to destroy everything.
    Read his post very carefully and if you havent been in the area don’t comment.
    The Swiss example is bollocks.No comparison.
    New Zealand is not the same and if kiwis want to keep destroying our native species go for it.
    Leave things as they are.

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  23. Athena (10 comments) says:

    What are you gonna do with your extra 2 hours at Milford sound then? There’s 1 cafe/bar, 1 short walk and everything else, boat trips and flights, is sewn up by the tour companies. There isn’t even a hotel there anymore. How many of you have actually been there recently? Who owns the tour companies? Where do their profits go? How much of that money stays in NZ? The only beneficiaries of the tunnel proposal will be the tour companies and the tunnel building companies. Other than tunnel builders, where are the supposed jobs coming from? As the bus trip is shorter there will be fewer bus drivers needed (unless tourist numbers more than double-yeah right). Te Anau will lose big time, but Glenorchy won’t gain extra business because the buses won’t stop there, it’s too close to Queenstown. The Queenstown- Glenorchy road will need a major upgrade, so will taxpayers be expected to pay for that?

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  24. Yoza (1,913 comments) says:

    Yeah, anyone see the episode of The Simpsons where the snake-oil salesman sold Springfield a monorail?

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  25. V (750 comments) says:

    Athena, I think that is rubbish.

    I have many overseas friends, (as do many Kiwis) and always recommend they visit the Fiordland/Milford Sound area on holidays etc.
    When they do I always ask if they managed to look around Te Anau etc, but I would say at least 3in4 don’t because of the time constraint (real or perceived) when travelling from Queenstown based hotels on what is often a day trip.
    This is alot of time spent in the car (i.e. not spending any money).

    As i understand it one of the tunnel proposals was to emerge at TeAnau Downs, in other words turn left for TeAnau or right for Milford Sound. I don’t see how TeAnau is disadvantaged at all. These projects (or ones similar to it) have the potential to bring TeAnau closer to Queenstown, especially if the link was frequent/seamless/let some else do the driving etc.

    That said the Fiordland link experince that relies on Boat>ATV>Monorail then bus to Milford Sound is too many changes to be viable in my opinion. Would be better to keep it to maybe one or two mode change maximum.
    The right proposal would create a huge opportunity for TeAnau to actually be more of a base in it’s own right.
    You correctly identify one issue, the Queenstown-Glenorchy road, but I’m sure there are solutions.

    When did Kiwis become a bunch of people who fail to spot an opportunity?
    Pity we don’t have the money for high speed rail to link QT-CHCH. Maybe if there is a huge oil discovery off the coast we could afford it.

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  26. big bruv (14,165 comments) says:

    While I admit that a road to Milford is high on my “could not give a shit” meter I always apply the golden rule on issues like this.

    If the Greens are against it then I am all for it.

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  27. expat (4,050 comments) says:

    There are enough buses at Milford already without tarmacing the National park. What AKL com lawyer said.

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  28. AG (1,832 comments) says:

    @Athena,

    What are you gonna do with your extra 2 hours at Milford sound then? There’s 1 cafe/bar, 1 short walk and everything else, boat trips and flights, is sewn up by the tour companies.

    This isn’t about giving people 2 extra hours at Milford (actually, 4 if the buses do the there-and-back trip through the new tunnel). It’s about transporting people there more quickly to do what they already do, but get them back to Queenstown to spend more money in the shops/activities there.

    The Queenstown- Glenorchy road will need a major upgrade, so will taxpayers be expected to pay for that?

    There are no current plans to upgrade this, if the tunnel proposal happens. So you’ll have 80+ buses trundling along it daily, with anyone else wanting to use it stuck behind them. And then, when the extra wear and tear inevitably degrades a road that already suffers regular washouts/damage, the taxpayer will have to pick up the tab to repair and (almost certainly) improve it. So … privatisation of profits from the tunnel (in the form of the tunnel owners and tourism operators), socialisation of costs (in the form of the rest of us).

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  29. RF (1,454 comments) says:

    Manapouri, Wilmot Pass, Deep Cove were construction areas in the 60s. Native bush cleaned out, large areas of accomodation workshops, roads and a bloody big ship etc. Now the bush has returned and apart from the underground power house and a few buildings everything is back to normal. Only the smelly Luddites would be opposed to this.

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  30. AG (1,832 comments) says:

    Now the bush has returned and apart from the underground power house and a few buildings everything is back to normal.

    So, there aren’t upwards of 80 buses a day running along a new road through these areas, then? And so the comparison is … ?

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  31. Akld Commercial Lawyer (166 comments) says:

    From where I sit, a few more facts would be handy. We all have our prejudices – me as much as any. The material assembled by the developers is quite interesting. But when you sit down with a map (and a calculator) I found myself asking some of the same questions as Fran Cardno. Put simply, the numbers don’t make sense unless you factor in a massive contribution by the taxpayer for building some of the infrastructure – and for what? I particularly mentioned Switzerland because the railway up the Jungfraujoch is exactly the tourism experience (IMHO) we don’t want. The punters can drive to the railway (being careful to turn their engines off when caught in traffic jams) and then get their experience of the North Face of the Eiger without getting out of a seat. At the risk of sounding like a complete arse, on the walk to/from Kleine Scheidegg I felt sorry for the poor buggers in the train – they didn’t know what they were missing. Also the Swiss govt subsidises farming in the region so it still looks like Heidi lives their. Someone mentioned Manapouri, if Stephen Franks is right and Tiwai Point is mothballed – then he thinks that we will have an electricity over supply trapped in the South Island because of capacity constraints across Cook Strait. In the meantime, Statistics NZ was telling us even pre-earthquakes that all the growth in the next decade will be in Auckland. So I expect that the environmental lobby will be mentioning Manapouri a lot. Wilmot Pass is a great sidebar. Supposedly even more expensive than the road alongside the Clyde Dam. Its not been used much since the construction finished in the 60s. Ditto, Deep Cove – great piece of engineering though it is – its not quite a benchmark. I feel that this is a useful debate as I think we have a point of difference that could be lost with a development that both puts a dirty big scar on some of our last remaining wilderness and strips tourism in the south of its prime rationale for going there. Sure Queenstown is our Aspen or Grindelwald or whatever, but why trash the rest of the countryside? Personally, I’m not hung up on labels (greenies, Luddites, grasping developers, whatever) but once these things are built its too late to stuff the genie back in the bottle. A rational debate today, armed with a few facts, is called for.

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  32. Dean Papa (784 comments) says:

    The answer is steam locomotion. Everyone loves to ride on a steam locomotive. The bigger the steam locomotive, the better. I believe the Chinese still have steam railway. We could order some steam engines from them. Replica Big Boys or Challengers would be good. We would need to build railway tracks to Milford, but it would bring in the tourists by the millions, and would be awesome.

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  33. Colville (2,300 comments) says:

    I am with the Greenies on this one. Leave it alone.

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  34. pq (728 comments) says:

    just want to repeat

    Akld Commercial Lawyer (7) Says:
    March 2nd, 2013 at 3:51 pm
    DPF, you are at risk of committing the same sin on this issue (i.e. guilty of not doing your homework – and being glib as a result). There is plenty of resource available – and not just from the Save Fiordland lobbyists. Some of the stuff in the library – such as Ed Hillary or his friend Dr Mike Gill and some of those knarly old hunters is a good example of what will be lost if this area is accessible other than the hard way. Also, from where I sit, the issue with the tunnel proposal is fundamentally the same as that with the monorail – its the roading through two national parks and the risk of turning pristine wilderness into Disneyland that is the problem. Please take the time to look very closely at the proposals. By all means be cynical about some (but I suggest not all) of the opposition. And apply some of your own experiences – I recall that you have walked the Routeburn. Surely one of NZ’s greatest walks because you get to sample the size and scale of Fiordland and get above the snowline in parts. The road for the tunnel proposal is adjacent to the track! There are others ways of fostering development without turning an area of world heritage status into the sort of tourist experience that you get in (say) Switzerland. I suggest that’s what people come to NZ to get away from. And if there is an argument that the elderly or infirm are disadvantaged because they can’t get there – then I don’t see why we should be apologetic about it. Instead, they will have to get their grandkids to tell them about it. If we start making the remotest parts of NZ into something that it isn’t – then I fully expect that we might have some explaining to do to the next generation. I am not anti-development but having done my homework I don’t buy the PR that either proposal is discrete or right sized for some of our remotest backcountry. Enough

    the local people at Glenorchy and surrounding areas are almost unreserevedly opposed to the proposal. They have well thought out reasons , but perhaps not here on a redneck column

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  35. noskire (842 comments) says:

    @athena

    Who owns the tour companies? Where do their profits go? How much of that money stays in NZ?

    Just a few of the major operators in Milford that come to to mind…

    Real Journeys – NZ Owned
    Milford Sound Cruises – NZ Owned
    Southern Discoveries – NZ Owned
    Air Fiordland – NZ Owned
    InterCity/Great Sights – NZ Owned
    NakedBus – NZ Owned
    Scenic Pacific – NZ Owned
    Pacific Tourways – NZ Owned

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  36. Johnboy (17,018 comments) says:

    Applying the principle of the “Big Bruv” rule anything an Akld Commercial Lawyer is in favour of I’m against! :)

    In fact, just so I don’t appear to be parochial, anything ANY fucking lawyer is in favour of I’m against! :)

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  37. Athena (10 comments) says:

    Thanks for the info on the tour companies, so apart from a few more staff on the cruises and the tunnel builders, where are the jobs? As for the idea that you might choose to turn left and go to Te Anau when you come out of the tunnel, no you can’t, it’s bus only. While I’d recommend a trip to TeAnau and Milford Sound to overseas visitors, I’d not recommend a tour bus package. Packed in to a coach, 20 minute bush walk at the Chasm, straight to a ferry terminal for the package cruise then back on the bus. They are herded like sheep, yay, the NZ experience.

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  38. V (750 comments) says:

    @AKL

    I love it how you think you can appoint yourself the sole arbiter of “facts”. Typical lawyer reaction.
    The reality is Swiss tourism is hugely popular and successful. You fail to spot all the subsidies that go on in our tourist industry as well I might add!
    – So many Maori tribes living exactly how they did pre-ToW? So authentic that Maori Village in Rotorua.
    – What ever did happen to the Tupperwaka, that was about as popular as a dog turd on someones shoe.

    Nobody is forcing you to take the Jungfrau railway, hell you can climb the Eiger if you want to get up there that way.
    If people want to take the train because they are less mobile/time constrained etc that is a thing called a choice, which might be unfamiliar to your left wing thought pattern. If they ‘miss’ out on something you deem to be attractive, then again that is their choice. Maybe it was you missing out on travelling on an amazing engineering feat for the era? Depends on your persepctive and interests.
    In any case the railways are extremely popular, profitable, have a character that fits in with the environment, so I don’t see too many people complaining.

    If we had all of todays rules and regs when the settlers arrived in NZ, nobody would have settled because we couldn’t build a damn thing. Milford Sound wouldn’t even have the tourists it has today and earn the tourist $ it does without the Homer Tunnel, and no doubt all the luddites at the time were opposed to that too.

    A tunnel with suitable fee going to DOC actually has the potential to raise plenty of revenue for conservation purposes in the long run. If you know Canada you will be aware of the National Park fees (~$9/day, or ~100/yr) as you drive in.
    This allows plenty of money to be spent on conservation matters. (The oil money helps also).
    Sure Glenorchy residents aren’t particularly happy about the current proposal, but why do we have to build this particular tunnel solution. If they will need to aquire a TBM anyway why not make the tunnel a bit longer avoiding the areas people are complaining about, and make it general traffic (except dangerous goods) which will reduce the monopoly power for operators.
    Here are compromise solutions:

    http://postimage.org/image/7spu6gra7/
    (in yellow)
    The top tunnel would be about 22-27km’s, so twice the proposed, crucially misses Glenorchy as the entrance can be well before the town. Length depends on if you can tunnel below the lake or if you have to go around it. LINZ data shows lake depth as 135-175m deep at that end, not too bad.
    http://data.linz.govt.nz/layer/1369-chart-nz-252-lake-wakatipu-queenstown-bay-to-picnic-point/#/layer/1268-chart-nz-252-lake-wakatipu/

    The bottom tunnel, 50km (maybe too expensive). comes out between Milford/Te Anau so they are not disadvantaged.

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  39. Akld Commercial Lawyer (166 comments) says:

    @V

    Fair call, I did say that I risk sounding like a complete arse. And clearly I have failed to be objective – but I did do my own digging. Perhaps it just reinforced my own (freely declared) bias. At the end of the day, I suggest that the numbers just don’t make sense. Its a bit like saying imagine the tourism potential of trips from Scoot Base to say the Antarctic huts.
    Anyway, I did think one of the major factors behind the success of Swiss tourism is that a big chunk of Western Europe can access it easily and get away from tightly packed city living for a weekend. The influx from Germany on a Friday for example is huge. Hard to access subsidy data (at least quickly) to make a meaningful comparison – but its not hard to see that its a bit more than the average tourism operator here dreams about. My Maori clients, admittedly business related ones, are almost uniformly supportive of what the Tamaki Bros have done in Rotovegas and embarassed abut the Tupperwaka.
    Actually, the Jungfrau railway is interesting, so long as you are prepared to ignore the fact that it is carved out of a mountainside. The bad 70s movie the Eiger Sanction gives the armchair tourist the flavour.
    But my point is that the tourists to the deep south aren’t coming half way around the world to do something that they could drive to after work on a Friday night. (And no railway anywhere is profitable in a sense that means covering both the cost of capital and variable operating costs. As to character – each to his/her own. Complaints – see the debate about the new HS2 high speed link in the UK).
    A bit of a red herring to mention today’s regulatory environment me suggests. And by the by, the Homer tunnel was begun in the Depression and not opened until the early 50s.
    Tunneling in the region is epic – the 2nd tailrace tunnel (for water not people) at Manapouri is an engineering marvel – bit it is approx 10km and 10m wide – and was built at a cost of $200m. What sort of fee are we talking about to recoup that level of capex? Yep the pay as you go model is used to reduce some of the load of national parks in many countries. They are generally a figleaf as they cost more to collect than they generate – but an electronic toll would be used ala Sydney tunnel. I can’t find a figure in the developer’s proposal.
    The alternatives you posted appealed to my deepest inner geek – a sort of downunder Channel Tunnel (av depth 45m and cost approx GBP 10 bil) but not, I suggest, financially viable. Also, please do have a look at the map – there’s a few obstacles to navigate!
    Still a debate that should be had whenever there is a risk of a private sector developer socialising part of the development costs. Some developments will come out on the right side of the ledger, I suspect, because of the spin off benefits – which is healthy so long as we find a way of factoring in all of the costs. And not as a sort of lock up like Jurassic Park mindset but one which recognises the need to balance environmental values with the need to grow the economy. A sort of not all windfarms will get built, but some must – so where do we put them mindset. Enough

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  40. RRM (10,034 comments) says:

    I’ve often thought that if someone restored the old Solent Flying boat in MOTAT to flying condition, it would be brilliant for flying people between Queenstown and Milford. 1950s-themed cabin crew, glass of Otago red in your seat as you slowly climb out between the alpine peaks, etc.

    And even if you weren’t on board, the sight and sound of that lovely old bird opening up ten thousand horsepower and thundering off down the lake would be just… magnificent!

    (She would use a bit more fossil fuels than a – presumably ELECTRIC – aerial cable car though… greenies would never permit it!)

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