Controversial tunnel set for Aspiring

12 Dec 2011

By Southland/Otago Field Officer Sue Maturin

The Department of Conservation said last month it had agreed in principle to grant a controversial concession for a new road and bus tunnel through the Fiordland and Mt Aspiring national parks.

Southland’s Te Anau Community and the Otago Conservation Board have vowed to fight the proposal, which would cut travelling times for tourists between Queenstown and Milford Sound.

The New Zealand Conservation Authority has previously said a tunnel would be contrary to the undeveloped remote character of Mt Aspiring National Park.

The proposed bus tunnel would punch an 11.3 km-long hole beneath the Humboldt Mountains, linking the Hollyford Road with Routeburn Road, close to the entrance of the famous Routeburn walking track.

The road would be used by an average of 23 buses a day, with a peak of 40, according to the developers.

DOC has accepted the developers’ argument these impacts on an area famed for its remote and spectacular tramping trips can be offset by the company carrying out pest plant and predator control work in the Routeburn and Hollyford valleys.

The recently reviewed Mt Aspiring National Park Plan focused on retaining the wilderness and remote values and does not provide for roads, except for those needed for access to DOC facilities. 

DOC’s general policy for national parks also discourages new roads.

DOC’s decision in principle to support a concession – despite apparently conflicting with the policies in the national park plan and the general policy – is subject to conditions and public submissions. 

Submissions are due by January 27 and should be sent to:

Director General
Southland Conservancy Office
Box 743, Invercargill 9840

Attention: Robyn Roberts