20 Mar 2012

Milford tunnel would 'ruin a world treasure'

5:15 pm on 20 March 2012

The Department of Conservation has been told a tunnel beneath the Fiordland and Mount Aspiring national parks would ruin one of the world's greatest treasures.

More than 1200 submissions - the highest number in the department's history - have beem made on the plan to bore an 11km tunnel between Milford Sound and Queenstown.

Submitters are worried the tunnel, the aim of which is to cut four hours off the return trip from Queenstown to Milford Sound, will destroy the pristine nature of the national parks.

Residents in the Glenorchy community say buses will pass through the town every five minutes, turning the sleepy enclave into a pie and toilet stop.

They also worry that thousands of native trees will be cut down for the tunnel access road, destroying the habitat of native bats.

Te Anau residents say that by rushing people through the country the tunnel goes against Tourism New Zealand policy - and that it will also cut Te Anau out of the tourism loop as buses bypass the town.

The department is in its second week of hearings into the proposed Dart Passage Tunnel. The hearings have moved from Te Anau to Queenstown, where submitters are overwhelmingly in opposition.

Milford Dart Limited says it is not worried by the opposition as it always knew the tunnel would be contentious.