I thought National stood for development and jobs?

May 30th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

has announced:

The application by Riverstone Holdings Limited to build and operate a $240 million in has been declined by Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith.

“This proposal does not stand up either economically or environmentally. The independent tourism and financial analysis concluded it was not viable. There would be a significant impact on the area’s flora, fauna and natural heritage. The route is not sufficiently defined to properly assess the impacts,” Dr Smith says.

“Developments in an area with World Heritage status and which impact on the Fiordland National Park must meet the highest of standards and I have concluded that the risks of this proposal are too great.”

The Fiordland Link Experience proposed a new link between Queenstown and Milford Sound consisting of a 20-kilometre boat excursion across Lake Wakatipu to Mt Nicholas Station, a 45-kilometre all-terrain vehicle ride to Kiwi Burn, a 43.8-kilometre monorail ride to Te Anau Downs and a 90-kilometre coach journey to Milford Sound. The application included a lease, licence and concession for the monorail and related infrastructure through the South West New Zealand World Heritage Area including the Snowdon Forest and Fiordland National Park.

I think this is an incredibly disappointing decision. The monorail proposal would have provided a hugely enhanced visitor experience to tourists, and been a real boost to jobs and tourism. It did not go through Fiordland National Park, but merely neighbouring basic conservation land.

It wasn’t just going to be a monorail, but also have a mountain bike trail next to it (using the construction track), plus a catmaran link. Could you imagine a cool 40 km mountain bike trail into Te Anau Downs? Stunning.

I regard the reference to economic considerations to be a red herring. The job of the Conservation Minister should be to assess the environmental impact, not the business case. All that one needs to do is to have a condition that if the project fails, then there are sufficient funds held in trust to remove the infrastructure.

So that leaves the environmental considerations. Well two independent DOC officers (and DOC is hardly a hotbed of pro-development staffers) recommended that the consent be granted as the environmental impact was relatively minor (my words). So we have the Minister going more green than his own department. It’s what I’d expect from a Labour/Green Government – not National.

Incidentally my company Curia did a very small poll for the developer on public attitudes towards the proposal. The cost was tiny, and is not a factor in my views.

I don’t mind Governments being pragmatic, so long as their decisions still move New Zealand in the right direction. I don’t think this decision moves NZ in the right direction. I think it is a kick in the face for tourism and jobs. It will deter other operators from trying to get permission to do developments that boost tourism, if they think that their proposal won’t succeed regardless of the merits.

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89 Responses to “I thought National stood for development and jobs?”

  1. Viking2 (11,491 comments) says:

    Sooner Smith fucks off and joins the Greens the better. Indeed he should join Harre.
    What is the matter with Key and co. Are they so compromised elsewhere that they have to put up with this pratt. English’s best friend and if he didn’t have English propping him up he would be long gone.
    Or maybe there is other dark forces at play.

    He ordered the SIS to stop until it had sought advice from the Crown Law Office.

    Key insisted that the SIS “acted lawfully”. “I don’t see it as a major.”

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/10101576/Spy-law-promise-to-Dunne-put-on-hold

    Yep its off topic but illustrates why Smith gets away with his continuing blather and crap. Just like the changes to the Carbon Regime introduced and passed via the budget legislation that was commented on yesterday. Total corporate welfare.

    Apologies DPF but frankly this lot are getting worse by the day.

    I’m gob smacked that this isn’t going ahead. would it be a challenge. Well yes. Are we Kiwi’s capable of managing that challenge. Almost certainly.

    A disgrace.
    would we attract the people. For sure.

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  2. Scott1 (552 comments) says:

    The devil is in the detail I guess but I agree this sounds terribly disappointing. A monorail through a park like that would have very wide appeal for tourism.

    If it involved a significant amount of government subsidy (which can come in many forms) I’d be pretty dubious though.

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  3. martinh (1,257 comments) says:

    I heard him say it would leave the tax payer with a bill of hundred (s) of million to remove it.
    That really didnt make sense to me. I know the govt gets absolutely ripped off by road construction companies and doesnt care because its not their money but this quote by nick Smith seemed very wrong.

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  4. martinh (1,257 comments) says:

    DPF
    I dont get why the cost of polling being tiny means and what did the poll say???

    “Incidentally my company Curia did a very small poll for the developer on public attitudes towards the proposal. The cost was tiny, and is not a factor in my views.”

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  5. Linda Reid (415 comments) says:

    I am very disappointed with this decision. Very. It seems we can’t do any new development like this in NZ anymore. Thank goodness we had a different attitude back in the 30s or there would not even be a road into or out of Queenstown.

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  6. martinh (1,257 comments) says:

    Linda
    yeah you should see the bullshit happening regarding puhoi extension.
    tens of millions spent already and not one bit of land bulldozed.
    In the good old days a bulldozer crew would of had it done in a few weeks during the dry season.
    fuk what this countrys become

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  7. rouppe (971 comments) says:

    Disagree.

    The Sydney monorail is in the centre of a city of several million, is a major tourist hub, and all failed.

    In order to use this monorail you are in a town of several thousand that is a tourist destination – I . E not a hub. Then you have to
    1. Get on a boat. Is it enclosed or open? What will the ride be like in stormy weather, or sub zero snow conditions?
    2. Get off, and mess about while the ATV component is organised.
    3. Get on an ATV. Again, I’m wondering what this would be like in shitty weather
    4. Get off, and mess about getting on the train.
    5. Get off at the other end and find your way to where you’re staying.

    All this with your 20kg bag, remember, being handled four or five times.

    This is opposed to getting on an air conditioned bus. Once. Yes the trip is longer but shit loads less hassle

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  8. martinh (1,257 comments) says:

    Rouppe
    Sydney had alternatives so isnt comparable.
    Yes i agree it didnt sound an ideal trip but i think Nick Smiths reasoning on removal cost is BS to the nth degree

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  9. redqueen (567 comments) says:

    Perhaps another case of ‘Don’t rock the apple cart’? Maybe they should have put the proposal in so the decision fell on 22 September? This is a dammed stupid decision, particularly as this isn’t about conservation issues, but instead potential government liabilities (sorry, what portfolio does Nick Smith have?) At this rate, we’ll never build another thing if the ‘potential’ for something to go wrong (regardless of alternative controls) is an overriding factor.

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  10. SPC (5,644 comments) says:

    “I regard the reference to economic considerations to be a red herring. The job of the Conservation Minister should be to assess the environmental impact, not the business case. All that one needs to do is to have a condition that if the project fails, then there are sufficient funds held in trust to remove the infrastructure.”

    Having to have the spare capital reserve capacity to finance removing the infrastructure, if the business was not successful, sort of ensures that there is no business case for going ahead.

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  11. EAD (1,129 comments) says:

    The National Party (2008-201?)

    Happy to build economically useless windmills in highly visible places that kills birdlife and destroys views from miles around, driving the cost of energy bills ever higher.

    Not happy to allow privately funded economically beneficial projects to go ahead in “basic conservation land”.

    Sums them up really – good rhetoric, little action.

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  12. redqueen (567 comments) says:

    @SPC

    Why? If it costs $50m to remove it (just an example), then having that in a bond (effectively) wouldn’t be a massive hindrance, which would simply sit in government stock and earn the owner(s) interest. We require insurers and banks to maintain reserves, which just ‘sit there’, but are left in financial assets to make it not so costly. It certainly increases the potential opportunity cost to the developer, but if that is the price of getting access to a $250m development, then it can be factored in and left to business decision-makers. However, it remains an issue that the financial considerations shouldn’t fall within the Conservation remit.

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  13. martinh (1,257 comments) says:

    red queen
    Nick Smith said it would cost two hundred million to remove….
    the guy does have a fragile mind
    changes the game eh

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  14. MrTips (98 comments) says:

    Ah dry your eyes. It would’ve been destroyed when the Alpine Fault goes off anyway.

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  15. RRM (9,933 comments) says:

    All that one needs to do is to have a condition that if the project fails, then there are sufficient funds held in trust to remove the infrastructure

    I wonder how much it would cost to demo a failed monorail in the wilderness and cart all the remains away? Has anyone ever attempted to price up something like that?

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  16. martinh (1,257 comments) says:

    RRM
    Nick smith did- 2 hundred million.
    Bull shit
    If i was the developer id challenge that finding.
    Just shows how little the govt understands what a fair tax payer spend on infrastructure is when they accept 200m as a reasonable removal cost.
    I suppose they probably got those overpriced CBD rail loop companies to price this one too

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  17. deadrightkev (472 comments) says:

    What do you expect? This is National in election year. They don’t take risks in election year. Come to think of it National don’t take risks in any year.

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  18. redqueen (567 comments) says:

    @Martinh

    If he thinks a $240m project (on greenfield, not in the dead centre of Wellington) is going to cost an equal amount to demolish, he’s blithering. But then, hence why money shouldn’t be involved in his decision…

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  19. J Bloggs (241 comments) says:

    It’s an election year decision. But it also has the benefit that it helps undercut the meme that National cares more about looking after big business than looking after the country.

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  20. SPC (5,644 comments) says:

    EAD, you mean happy to allow SOE’s to make decisions about providing for increased demand for electricity generation and where this involves wind turbines they will naturally be placed in exposed rather than sheltered places.

    And wind turbine electricity generation is not economically useless.

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  21. martinh (1,257 comments) says:

    Redqueen
    Here he is saying $200m to remove
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/10099108/240-million-Fiordland-monorail-rejected

    Yes hes blithering, has being for many a year, and is getting worse like Peters.

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  22. martinh (1,257 comments) says:

    SPC
    do you support water turbines in Kaipara?

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  23. burt (8,275 comments) says:

    DPF

    While at the Himalayan base camp did you ever wonder how much better the place would be with a big fuck off monorail delivering fat American tourists to the place ? Seriously …. This is a wilderness area – it is right that it’s reserved for people prepared to sweat a little to get there to enjoy its pristine beauty.

    [DPF: You're not even close to doing a useful comparison. The alternative to the monorail is not people sweating to get in. They come in on scores of pollution exhaling buses]

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  24. martinh (1,257 comments) says:

    Burt i agree with you
    but that wasnt Smiths rational

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  25. jackinabox (776 comments) says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong but I though that the monorail was a scenic short cut to Milford Sound? So if that was the case how was an overnight stop in a new hotel at TeAnau Downs a shortcut?

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  26. RF (1,407 comments) says:

    Never mind. Smith is saving his powder for the next battle. Extending the Haast Pass road down the coast. That’s the one I agree with.

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  27. martinh (1,257 comments) says:

    Correct me if i am wrong but they still would go to Milford Sound by scores of polluting buses in this monorail plan too

    [DPF: You're not even close to doing a useful comparison. The alternative to the monorail is not people sweating to get in. They come in on scores of pollution exhaling buses]

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  28. mjw (396 comments) says:

    I can’t understand the argument about removal costs. If the developer goes bankrupt the receiver will sell the assets to a new operator. They will make sure they pay no more than is economic, and so ongoing operation will be sustainable. The original shareholders and banks may lose out, but the actual business would be viable at the lower initial capital cost paid by the new owners. No need for removal. Maybe I am missing something, but this so called decisive argument about removal costs seems to illustrate a lack of understanding of commerce.

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  29. SPC (5,644 comments) says:

    martinh, water turbines are another option, whether Kaipara is a better location for generators than other areas is for them to decide. The issue of what environment standards should apply for harbour environments, as a constraint on such generation, is not something I have sufficient expertise to opine on. It is not something we have had to make a national policy determination on yet.

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  30. martinh (1,257 comments) says:

    good point mjw.

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  31. RRM (9,933 comments) says:

    And tbh the whole proposal sounds HIGHLY mickey mouse. I can’t believe there’s not a bit where the customers ride sharks with fricken *lasers* across the lake…

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  32. m@tt (629 comments) says:

    [DPF: You're not even close to doing a useful comparison. The alternative to the monorail is not people sweating to get in. They come in on scores of pollution exhaling buses]

    As they would still do so with the monorail only covering a portion of the journey. Don’t try to paint your support of the monorail as some altruistic drive to reduce carbon emissions. It’s transparent as hell.

    The monorail project was a bad overall business plan from day one, After an initial surge and plenty of taxpayer handouts to keep the original investor’s finances happy it would have then failed and been left to rust or be removed at huge cost to the poor old taxpayer again. Nick Smith has done us all a great service.

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  33. SPC (5,644 comments) says:

    mjw, correct. Smith must be doubting the capacity of the project to operate at a profit (even at zero capital/takeover cost to any new buyer).

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  34. deadrightkev (472 comments) says:

    Never forget that this is the party and minister that gave NZ the EMISSIONS TRADING SCHEME to stop GLOBAL WARMING. Then people wonder why their power bills are so high.

    National and Smith went ahead with this carbon farce despite the sane evidence to the contrary and against the will of the National voter base. That is not leadership in any way shape or form.

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  35. UrbanNeocolonialist (290 comments) says:

    Allowing it would have been easy pickings for the Greens to garner publicity and maybe pick up votes. The election is too close to take the chance on such a minor thing.

    But I agree it is total bullshit. People bleating about preserving the environment for the tiny proportion of wealthy (in time, money and physical capability) that get to experience it now are oblivious elitist shitheads.

    Should do a tiny train like the Driving Creek narrow gauge railway in the coromandel, or maybe multiple connected small gondolas. Slow, but cheap to build and could be predominantly under the canopy to limit its visual impact. Even if it took 2-3 hours each way it would be a lovely experience.

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  36. Odakyu-sen (679 comments) says:

    Diesel isn’t so bad, according to https://www.dieselnet.com/tech/emi_intro.php

    ”Much lower, ‘near-zero’ levels of pollutants are emitted from modern diesel engines equipped with emission aftertreatment devices such as NOx reduction catalysts and particulate filters.”

    Of course, dieselnet would say that, wouldn’t they; however, if the buses are well maintained, then the pollution will be relatively low and distributed. The electric power for the monorail would have to come from somewhere. “Hydro power” I hear you say? Well, gosh, building a dam certainly leaves a large “carbon footprint,” doesn’t it!

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  37. Komata (1,191 comments) says:

    It’s an odd thing, but on the 0600 Red Radio news this morning, a local motellier was (my paraphrase) ‘Thankful for the fact that the project had failed’, and that the national park remained untouched. He seemed to be wilfully disregarding the minor detail that in fact that the section traversed would have actually been outside the ‘park’s boundary’s.

    Somehow, I think he has missed the point and not realised that a monorail would be to his ADVANTAGE, as it would bring more persons into the area. I’m still not sure if such an attitude is not just a little-bit short sighted?

    But then again….

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  38. mjw (396 comments) says:

    SPC – yes. But of course it can’t be that unprofitable or the banks would never finance development.

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  39. Southern man (4 comments) says:

    Interesting to read the comments here. I am a part time Te Anau resident and having been active hunting, fishing and tramping in the area for over 40 years. The Te Anau residents are pretty well united in their opposition to the scheme. The area is pristine and pretty well untouched and yet suprisingly there is a heap of public access through the area, for example you can drive through from the State Highyway through to the Mavora lakes then on to to Lake Wakitipu. If you are familar with the area you would understand why it was doomed to fail. There certainly was the enviromental factor in the decision but economicly I don’t think they would get enough bums on seats to make it pay. This is the key for any tourism opertator. Unless you are a local you would not begin to comprehend what happens in winter throuigh this area. This was not a solution to replace the bus only divert a small amount of tourists to a higher end experience. Te Anau and Milford close down for the winter. This project would be in effect left to rot for 4 months of the year. It is probably one of the harshest regions weather wise in New Zealand.
    The road through the Haast would be of far better benefit to the area by providing a link from the West Coast to Milford then onto Te Anau/Manapouri and back around to Queenstown.

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  40. Southern Raider (1,831 comments) says:

    The reality was changing 5 times to get to a destination and it still isn’t any quicker than the traditional bus route is stupid.

    I agree the Haast Rd would be a great call to make a week after the election has been won.

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  41. burt (8,275 comments) says:

    DPF

    [DPF: You're not even close to doing a useful comparison. The alternative to the monorail is not people sweating to get in. They come in on scores of pollution exhaling buses]

    Yes, I understand your frustration. This is for National what the Auckland waterfront stadium was for Labour. The environmental impacts to the area were it successful are best ignored while licking the wounds of political defeat.

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  42. calendar girl (1,244 comments) says:

    DPF: “I think this is an incredibly disappointing decision.”

    I think this is an incredibly disappointing Minister.

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  43. Jimbo (43 comments) says:

    A close read of the developer’s business case showed that he was looking for ongoing ratepayers support. This combined with the fact that no monorail has been constructed and operated in a remote area (huge risk) and unrealistic passenger numbers meant that Nick Smith did the right thing in ensuring taxpayers and ratepayers wouldn’t have to pony up to keep the thing going when the project – inevitably – cost more to construct, operate and had less revenue than forecasted.

    Monorails are about as relevant to the future as a rotary dial telephone.

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  44. Lance (2,662 comments) says:

    So whats next for the luddites,
    Ban the Shotover jet?

    It certainly would NEVER get the go ahead these days. Think of the snails!!!!

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  45. tom hunter (4,899 comments) says:

    I thought National stood for development and jobs

    I thought National stood for a lot of things that they apparently do not.

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  46. burt (8,275 comments) says:

    Jimbo

    A close read of the developer’s business case showed that he was looking for ongoing ratepayers support

    Who would have guessed that National wanted to commit the public to spending their money on a grand development in an election year ….

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  47. mjw (396 comments) says:

    This is just central planning. If the monorail couldn’t get funding, why not let the markets reject it?

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  48. RRM (9,933 comments) says:

    Come to think of it, maybe I’ll submit an alternative proposal called “Porangi: RRM’s Fiordland shark experience.”

    Customers ride sharks with fricken *lasers* on their heads from the steamship wharf to the top of the lake.

    There, they enter a 50km tunnel made of acrylic panels allowing them to observe sharks in their natural habitat while travelling under the mountains, before a SHARKNADO generated artificially by giant wind turbines carries them over the final pass and down into Milford Sound.

    There, they don wakeboarding gear and a jetboat driven by Fonzy takes them out on the sound to jump a shark.

    I estimate construction costs of one MILLLLLLION dollars, and 20,000 new permanent jobs will be created by this venture.

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  49. Lance (2,662 comments) says:

    @RRM
    You naughty boy, leaking Labour party secret plans again.

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  50. Scott Chris (6,155 comments) says:

    Could you imagine a cool 40 km mountain bike trail into Te Anau Downs?

    Sounds like a more feasible idea.

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  51. Scott Chris (6,155 comments) says:

    Back when the Simpsons was funny:

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  52. wiseowl (899 comments) says:

    Congratulations on your comment southern man.
    You would have a better grip on this issue than most.
    I don’t think the economic case was for Smith to judge on.That has been the case with RMA decisions but then Smith is a strange one. Time he retired.
    As for the pollution from buses, surely in that area would be infinitismal and any CO2 would be welcomed by the trees.

    If Smith did away with the ETS I would cheer for that.

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  53. john (47 comments) says:

    With a 50 something arthritic body this is something that would have done in a heartbeat. The question though is when this option was being sold it played heavily on shortening the trip to Milford which in its self is an equally scenic and interesting drive. This proposal did not markedly reduce that time and was not the simple boat, train, bus adventure I thought it was. So a fail on that point.
    Commercial viability. I agree with the above that in a commercial world the developer take the risk and if proved wrong then the receivers would step in and on a reduced price someone would take over an asset and make it work financially. I understand that the developer does not have the money or investors on tap to build let alone put any guarantees in place. This is therefor not a simple build it and see what happens commercial environment, this is going remote and into conservation estate. I believe that if the business case was stronger then it may well have got a tick for most of the emotive environmental reasons put forward were not particularly substantive. These thoughts are based on a long conversation in Queenstown not so long ago with people who in essence backed the ventures principal but could not see it work.

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  54. Nostalgia-NZ (5,222 comments) says:

    Difficult to follow that there is a supposed cost of 200 million would be needed to remove the rail, I’d like to see the details of that. Have to be something along the lines of requiring fully registered greenie vegetarians using finger nail files – no malice intended.

    Martinh your comments about roading contractors are nonsense. It’s a tough competitive business as are the budgets.

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  55. johnwellingtonwells (137 comments) says:

    And yet the tunnel was rejected – a much better concept

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  56. flash2846 (287 comments) says:

    Once again an opportunity to provide access for the elderly and physically impaired to an amazing landscape is stopped for the benefit of those not even born yet. they wont care about us so lets allow ourselves some luxuries.

    I have parents in their seventies who would love to re-visit Fiordland in comfort. The monorail if built would be perfect for them.
    My daughter frequently asks how long we all expect to live for and I am beginning understand her logic.

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  57. Bill Ted (93 comments) says:

    Had a read through the docs the developers released yesterday and they shot the Minister’s financial viability argument to pieces. Not only would they have made viability a condition before they even began construction, but they would have agreed to have full insurance in place to ensure its removal in the event it failed. If they couldn’t secure both funding and insurance, it couldn’t have been built. And as DPF says, the environmental concerns have been accounted for already. There was zero risk to the taxpayer. So either Nick Smith made a 100% political decision or he got captured by a particularly zealous DOC official who was determined to kill the project off. Doesn’t matter which, he looks like a complete fool.

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  58. Chuck Bird (4,897 comments) says:

    I wonder who helped Nick Smith make the decision – John Key?

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  59. Rich Prick (1,705 comments) says:

    I’ve spotted the problem with the proposal. It used the word “monorail”, had it been just a plain “train” instead, the greenies would have been all over themselves in support and Nick would have loved it.

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  60. Nostalgia-NZ (5,222 comments) says:

    The chateau makes plenty in a season limited by weather. One thing in saying it wouldn’t attract tourists going by numbers at this time, quite another to overlook its potential to have become a noted destination once the experience was up and running. Lacking vision, worse, crippling enterprise.

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  61. georgebolwing (870 comments) says:

    What I can’t understand — well maybe I can understand, but don’t want to accept at legitimate — is why, other than the removal cost issue, the economic case for this was any concern of the Minister for Conservation. If a private sector firms wants to put its capital at risk on a speculative venture, surely that is a matter for them and their backers, not the Conservation Minister.

    As mjw pointed out quite well, if the original investors were overly optimistic is their assessment of the likely returns, then financial market will take care of that, adjusting the value down to what it justified by the returns actually on offer. If the returns are still negative, then a bond to cover clean-up could have been called. This is standard operating procedure for developments all over the world.

    This is just another example of the National Party being socialists.

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  62. peterwn (3,277 comments) says:

    Say all the things you like about Nick Smith but the reality is that National has to go after the soft Green vote, or that vote will end up with the Green Party. Talk all you like about ‘Founding Principles’ (as Redbaiter does) but they are pretty useless if you end up in opposition.

    If Nick considers a project an economic turkey – he would be pretty close to the mark in reality. There is no BS with Nick.

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  63. trout (939 comments) says:

    An excellent decision. Every day entreprenuers land in Queenstown looking for a way to commercially exploit the natural features of the National Parks. There are now upward of 150 concessions; every one in its own way diminishes the very qualities the concessionaires seek to exploit. Unfortunately DOC does not have the expertise to properly analyse proposals and manage commercial activities on public land. And being cash strapped they are inclined to accept dodgy propositions in a quest for income. The monorail proposal should never have got past first base; the logistics (boat to all-terrain vehicle to monorail to bus for 90 kms) does not save travel time (Queenstown to Milford); even with high fares the economics do not stack up because of seasonal loadings. The future would be a cry for a subsidy, or an abandoned infrastructure which Nick Smith is correct in guessing would cost $1,000,000+ to clean up. It is an irony that in a drive to ravish virginal wilderness lands in the guise of providing services to tourists we destroy the very features that attract tourists in the first place.

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  64. G152 (351 comments) says:

    So the road that all those bussed tourists is okay?
    Why isn’t access to the area only by sea if its so worthy of maintaining in its pristine state

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  65. Southern man (4 comments) says:

    Interesting to see in the latest Fiordland Advocate (local Te Anau rag) that DOC has scuttled the hopes of a Te Anau to Manapouri cycle trail. Comments from a local ” A float plane can fly overhead, a jet boat can zoom past on the river/lake and a hunter can let his rifle go off 500 metres away but my daughter can’t ride her bike”.

    DOC gave the monorail the big tick but refuse a simple cycle trail. Their priorities seem to to be totally out of tune with local sentiment.. The track had been seven years in the planning and DOC have thwarted it to a t least 2017. There is already rough tracks in place for fisherman on the eastern side of the rifer and it would have been relatively simple to upgrade these into a 20 k cycle track through some of the most pristine wilderness country in New Zealand. Where are their priorities?

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  66. georgebolwing (870 comments) says:

    peterwn: Surely it is better to die on your feet than live on your knees.

    The reason Sue Bradford has won accolades from Kiwiblog readers this week is that she has shown that having principles, but no power, is actually better than the unprincipled exercise of power.

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  67. wiseowl (899 comments) says:

    So peterwn ,anything goes as long as you have the power.?

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  68. flipper (4,084 comments) says:

    There are two aspects to this decision:

    1. It is a case of being “risk averse” in election year. That being so, it would be a NP Board/Cabinet/Ministerial decision.

    2. Smith was always going to veto the proposal. And he will be lucky to avoid JR. Carter’s experience probably ensured that Smith ticked all the boxes, but the insertion of economic matters in “his decision” could be a fatal flaw……. and could cause the project to be re-visited in October.

    As a general observation, I can see no real, sustainable reason whatsoever why the project should not proceed.

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  69. muggins (3,788 comments) says:

    I was always against the monorail, full stop.
    But can someone please tell me roughly how many full time jobs it would have created, once it was up and running.

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  70. Bill Ted (93 comments) says:

    Flipper, you nailed it. But the developer was on the radio yesterday saying this was the end, he didn’t plan to appeal even though he would have waltzed through the courts. JR is largely a waste of time, all it means is the decision gets made again and unless Nick was kicked off the portfolio he wouldn’t change his mind. He’d just find new excuses. He’s a tool.

    Muggins – roughly 300 construction jobs and 100 permanent jobs when running, from memory. Could be more than that actually.

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  71. Colville (2,272 comments) says:

    I am glad the project got binned.

    I would not have made a buck long term, was at significant risk of nature giving it the bash and rooting it, and then been left for the tax payer to clean up.

    Also, it created a huge “no hunting” area. I like hunting :-) Deer are smart. They would have quickly learnt that if they stand under the mono rail they were safe!

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  72. muggins (3,788 comments) says:

    Bill Ted, thanks.
    Yesterday the developers were saying 1000 jobs. I have my doubts about there being 100 permanent jobs.
    Maybe a gondola would be a goer.
    http://www.gondola.co.nz/

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  73. NK (1,244 comments) says:

    No one here has mentioned the blindingly obvious: Why should any politician, who is dependent on pleasing a certain sector of society for his job, be given the veto right on a development, whether it’s this development or any other? This is New Zealand, not the Kremlin. It disgusts me. It happened with the marina in the Coromandel and with countless OIA applications and others.

    And it is the same whether it’s a National-led or Labour-led government. These people invest time and money into something and go through a regulatory process that is stringent. And then some know-all politician in election year just shafts them. It’s a bloody disgrace and it should be the first thing that is removed from the RMA when ACT gives it the heave-ho.

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  74. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    I’ve wondered that too, NK. We have a pretty involved resource management process so why does there need to be ministerial decision making over the top? The same applies for some other areas, like immigration and citizenship matters.

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  75. Ed Snack (1,883 comments) says:

    Not surprised really, and I have to say that despite the developers confidence I can’t see the economics working out easily. It would be an experience in itself, not a different way to get to Milford that would be the point. As others point out, if a shorter and less polluting way to access Milford is the point, then the tunnel scheme through to the Hollyford was a far better idea, with maybe a modified access point.

    It doesn’t traverse a National Park but it does cross a wilderness area as I understand it, which is a secondary classification for preservation. It finished up at Te Anau Downs, at which place there is a motel, the wharf for the Milford track boat, and nothing else. Presumably the plans were for significant development at that location.

    I think there were a lot of unanswered questions with the development, and again despite the developers protestations there would have been many loud calls for public assistance once it was going. It never looked viable to me. It would however generate something like 1-200 jobs as drivers, attendants, support staff, and the like. And maybe a consent condition of some form of indemnity/insurance for removal might have been worth exploring.

    But just IMHO, this is DPF being over precious.

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  76. Nuwanda (83 comments) says:

    Little else to say at this point, plenty of salient comments as to why National and Labour or the Greens are all occupying the same ideological territory. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

    But I think DPF has summed up the root cause of the problem, but perhaps not in the way he might think:

    “I don’t mind Governments being pragmatic, so long as their decisions still move New Zealand in the right direction.”

    So, you can’t complain, can you? Smith IS being pragmatic. Smith is, as far as he’s concerned, moving the country in the right direction with this decision.

    See, as soon as you accept pragmatism, anything goes, everything becomes subjective. How can you have a principled stand and be pragmatic at the same time? You can’t have you principles and eat them, too. You can’t criticise Nick Smith on the basis of any mythical principles because you’ve already admitted that pragmatism is a perfectly acceptable mode for decision-making. Live by the sword, die by the sword.

    [in fact, compared with Smith's decision, and with specific reference to supposed transgression of principles, the recent Harre-Dotcom cuddle-fest hardly registers]

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  77. Akld Commercial Lawyer (165 comments) says:

    Having previously declared my prejudices in relation to the tunnel project – not wanting to turn Fiordland into Disneyland, I took the time to read the reports.

    Perhaps others might do so too.

    Faced with those reports, I do not see that the Minister had much option – although he did say that it had more merit than the tunnel proposal. As a result, more work was undertaken to investigate the proposal.

    The bottom line is that it does not stack up either economically or environmentally. The independent tourism and financial analysis concluded it was not viable. And there would be a significant environmental impact. Also, much the proposal was just a high level sketch – with the route not being sufficiently defined to properly assess the impacts.

    Of interest also is that the Minister signals that he does not want the decision to be interpreted as the Govt and DOC being opposed to any proposal for alternative access options in Fiordland. He says that the strategic issue of facilitating better transport options between Queenstown and Milford remains to be addressed – but any proposals need to be both environmentally sustainable and economically viable.

    As a result, I find myself disagreeing with most of DPF’s commentary. None of the nos are easy to understand – against a capital budget that is large and untested.

    And I disagree entirely with the suggestion that economic considerations are not relevant. The history of building anything in Fiordland is that takes longer and costs more – with great risk to the taxpayer with the inevitable calls for a bailout. And, with respect, l think much more work was needed to investigate a bond. l suspect, knowing a little bit about the market – that it would have been very difficult to get something suitable.

    My reading of the independent analysis of the environmental & biodiversity impacts differs widely from that cited by DPF. Again, faced with this, any Minister (regardless of their political hue) would be hard-pressed to give it the nod.

    And by contrast to DPF, I am optimistic that other (mostly right-sized) proposals will emerge from tourist operators with experience in the region and familiar with the challenges and opportunities. And I expect that this might clear the way for more analysis of a road link from the West Coast – itself a massive undertaking with a lot of challenges.

    Disappointing for the proponents, who have committed a lot of time and effort (and funds) to an exciting proposal. But still, noting my personal prejudices, the right result on balance.

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  78. OTGO (557 comments) says:

    Like a couple of commenters I have also been to Fiordland. Journeyed via boat across Lake Manapouri, then Bedford army truck to Doubtful Sound, then on the water down to Preservation Inlet in an oyster trawler. Then back again in reverse to get back to Te Anau. Was a bit anxious on the journey back due to 10m waves and very little visibility but we survived.
    So I have 3 points to make:
    1. It is difficult to get there but the effort is worth it. I want more people to see what I did so support anything that makes it easy to get there. The monorail was a fantastic idea because it had a minor impact on the environment.
    2. This decision sends a negative signal to not only overseas investors but to NZ’ers too that we don’t think big. What’s happened to the “NZ punches above our weight” mantra? Gone. Destroyed by successive socialist governments who only know how to give money to the non-productive sector to buy votes.
    3. Fiordland is a very, very large place. During the 2 weeks I was there I never saw another human being other than my ship mates. A monorail’s impact would’ve been so minor in such a large place it wouldn’t affect other users enjoyment of the area.

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  79. RRM (9,933 comments) says:

    Serious suggestion:

    MOTAT and some entrepreneur should combine to overhaul the old T.E.A.L. Solent flying boat to operating condition, and use it to fly people from Queenstown to Milford Sound, taking off and landing on the lake and boarding passengers via the wharf next to where Earnslaw ties up. You could have 1950s themed air crew uniforms and everything. They could fly low up the valleys to give a good view.

    THAT would be absolutely stunning, people would pay an arm and a leg to do it.

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/4/4e/Short_Solent_3_-_G-AKNU_Sydney_-_Aquila_Airways_-_Funchal.jpg

    http://www.theraider.net/films/raiders/gallery/dvdscreenshots/106.jpg

    Probably easier to set up than some hare-brained monorail + bus + ATV + boat scheme.

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  80. peterwn (3,277 comments) says:

    To those who critcised my previous posting – a political party that forgoes power in pursuit of principles is as useless as tits on a bull. The over-arching objective of a political party is to get into power and if in power to stay in power. It is that simple.

    National has no option but to attract the soft left and the soft green vote if it is going to remain in power. It is a fine political balance between reaching for the soft left vote while not alienating the harder right vote. As far as support parties are concerned they (except Maori Party) are pretty useless and potentially damage National. Colin Craig’s effort is a one man cult and IMO National is better off not having anything to do with it. Peter Dunne has succeeded in losing his team but can be tolerated. My biggest criticism is reserved for ACT – they have not been able to get their act together in recent times and were a liability in the last election, not an asset. They potentially have a key role if they play their cards right – they can potentially attract voters that find National too soft, and they can help by putting forward policies that National’s soft left supporters find too ‘hard line’. Examples are ‘three strikes’ and charter schools. The one I would like to see is CEO’s and employees earning over $100k being removed from the ambit of the Employment Relations Act.

    So I see a vital role for both the likes of Nick Smith and a support party in favour of a hard line.

    On bonds concerning the Monorail. If the company tanks, dismantling estimates are $50M to $200M. If there is a bond (and there ought to be), the developers effectively have to find hard cash for that. This means raising a further $100M or so which can only be invested in ultra secure investments returning 5% or so. The Monorail stakeholders will be expecting a 20 – 40% annual return on their investment including the bond. If it is not going to return 20% (including bond) for a moderately pessimistic patronage it is an economic turkey. To suggest that there be no bond (or a soft bond) so it passes economic muster is just kidding yourself. There are too many starry eyed cost estimates that come to grief – the Channel Tunnel, Maniototo irrigation and Mangawhai sewage scheme being examples that come to mind.

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  81. Steve Wrathall (284 comments) says:

    Why would it need to be removed- even if it failed? Just let the forest reclaim it. Some of the best bush walks are past old mines, log cable cars, Bridge to Nowhere, etc.

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  82. Bill Ted (93 comments) says:

    @ Akld Commercial Lawyer so you only read the material that suited your viewpoint. Fair enough. But if you read the developers response to it, particularly the expert reports commissioned, they utterly destroy the viability report Nick Smith commissioned, which he has wholly relied upon. It smacks of a pre-ordained agenda. Smith could have released all documentation, from both sides, but he was clearly selective in what he chose to release in order to shape the story. That’s politics 101. Only idiots, and the media, fall for that.

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  83. trout (939 comments) says:

    Perhaps a dirigible service from Queenstown to Milford would be a goer. High capacity, low impact, and great views.

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  84. Akld Commercial Lawyer (165 comments) says:

    @ Bill Ted – you are partially right in that I have read what appears to be a subset of the material – largely being that which the Minister made available. Over the years, I have glanced at some of the earlier material going back I believe to the Mitchell Partnerships (highly respect environmental consultancy) report in about 2010 or 2011.

    My impression, and noting that I do get to look at various experts reports doing my day job, is that it was always going to be a margin call. In such cases, a responsible (I use this label advisedly) Minister is unlikely to be bold when the taxpayer might end up carrying the can, literally. The more recent reports released yesterday – are less equivocal.

    And, yes I did approach the issue from a particular perspective. There are some cool pieces of engineering in the Swiss Alps. But it is still a bizarre experience of seeing the Jungfrau train thread its way through territory popular with climbers. And those bits of kit are close to major population centres – good for both bodycount to make them viable and maintaining them.

    I am sure that the developers are disappointed. But based on what has been released, I am not sure that the Minister had any choice. The taxpayer had a great deal of exposure to bold developments in Southland, that were the brain child of others, a generation ago.

    One man’s selective decision-making is another’s idea of prudent. If saying that I side with the Minister on a margin call (which I don’t think this was – perhaps coloured by my own predisposition) makes me an idiot – then that’s a badge I wear with pride.

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  85. Manolo (13,840 comments) says:

    How much longer will John Key keep Smith, the shameless Green fifth-columnist, in his cabinet?

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  86. annie (539 comments) says:

    Smith made the right decision.

    1. Fiordland was gifted to NZ by Ngai Tahu for preservation in perpetuity.

    2. Queenstown wide boys have no god given right to profit from damaging a unique environment.

    Have any of you actually been there and spent time there? A week in Queenstown doesn’t count, nor does a bus/helicopter/plane quickie to Milford. Milford and the stops along the road were once beautiful places to visit and are now just seedy. We don’t need it to spread, thanks.

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  87. wiseowl (899 comments) says:

    More like Fiordland was gifted to Ngai tahu!

    But NK is right.
    No minister should have the right to veto even with all the advice in the world.

    There used to be a perfectly good process in place.

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  88. Albert_Ross (298 comments) says:

    “No minister should have the right to veto” – You think these decisions should be entirely technocratic/administrative and you don’t see any place for democratic accountability?

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  89. wiseowl (899 comments) says:

    Absolutely not Albert.

    But having a Minster make decisions is not democratic.

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