Three forest folk from Southland took to the streets of Wellington earlier this month to gather support for the Save Fiordland campaign.
Their mission was simple: gather signatures for petitions that oppose the proposed Milford Dart Tunnel and monorail that will cut through some of Fiordland’s most treasured natural areas.
The woodland creatures, known as Gnufffs (Gnome Forest Folk of Fiordland), gathered over 500 signatures in under two hours, which will be added to the 25,000 signatures from
Save Fiordland’s online petition. Chief Gnufff Frana Cardno drew on her oratory skills as Southland District Mayor to attract Wellingtonians hurrying through busy Lambton Quay.
“We’ve come all the way from Southland,” she said. “Fiordland is a Natural Heritage Area that’s for all New Zealanders. It is our heritage for all our children and we need to save it from these vandals.”
Frana condemned the expected environmental destruction that would result from building a 30km monorail through Snowdon Forest, and the commercial bus tunnel that would link the Hollyford and Routeburn valleys.
Both proposals are designed to provide faster access for tourists to Milford Sound, but Frana said the developments could hurt tourism ventures if like in other cases overseas, they cause the World Heritage status to be revoked.
She also pointed to the loss of tourism for Southland communities dependent on through traffic. Forest & Bird has opposed both proposals. Otago/Southland Field Officer Sue Maturin said the proposed monorail would destroy internationally significant mixed red, silver and mountain beech forest in World Heritage Area, Te Wahipounamu.
Sue listed among the adverse affects, an estimated loss of nearly 20,000 trees and loss of habitat for nationally endangered long tailed bats, the threatened mohua and ka¯ka¯ .
The Department of Conservation (DOC) is yet to grant concessions for the developments. Frana urged DOC to live by its own maxim to “take only photos and leave only footprints”. “If we took one tree out of our national parks, we’d be prosecuted, and here we have 20,000 trees