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A Short-Cut to Milford Sound

By Ian Lowe

Locals are sceptical of the benefits of plans to increase tourist accessibility to a World Heritage area in New Zealand.

Ian Lowe is Emeritus Professor of science, technology and society at Griffith University.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

One hundred and fifty years ago Otago’s first provincial geologist, Dr James Hector, walked from Martin’s Bay on the South Island of New Zealand’s west coast up the Hollyford Valley and crossed the mountains to reach Queenstown. Impressed by the timber and indications of mineral riches, he recommended a road be built along the route he had walked. The estimated cost proved an insurmountable obstacle and the road was never built.

In February I walked down the Hollyford Valley, nervously crossing deep gullies on scary three-wire bridges. It is largely unspoiled, as you would expect of a World Heritage area. But a battle is looming over a new proposal to drive a road through from Queenstown to reduce the travel time for tourists wanting to get from Queenstown to Milford Sound.

The locals are divided, even within the tourist industry. While some operators in those two centres support the proposal, others see it as threatening existing businesses. An 11.3 km tunnel would halve the travel time between Queenstown and Milford Sound. But as well as costing an estimated $150 million, it would bring buses into both Mt Aspiring and Fiordland national parks.

While the Department of Conservation had suggested that the impacts could be acceptable with “appropriate conditions”, 1235 submissions were received by the closing date in February. It would be safe to...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.