Want to understand more about why Save Fiordland are compaigning hard against the monorail and tunnel projects right now? Read our FAQ about the Department of Conservation concession process, its governing documents, and the world heritage status that's at stake.
The companies behind the tunnel and monorail proposals need permission to build and operate their projects. Who gives this permission and when?
The commercial companies proposing the tunnel and the monorail projects are applying for concessions to operate in national parks. A granted concession means a commercial company has permission to carry out its business in a national park, within given and agreed constraints. A concession is granted by New Zealand's Department of Conservation (DOC). Traditionally, concessions in national parks are challenging to get, as a business must prove they will eliminate, or mitigate to acceptable levels, damage to the environment caused by the business. Most concession holders are businesses operating ecologically-sensitive tourist operations, with constraints on their operation. For example, tramping companies operating off-track cannot take more than seven people at a time through the bush and must take extreme care not to litter or pollute the environment in any other way. Concession applicants wanting to operate in Fiordland are advised to follow the Fiordland National Park Management Plan (see below) when preparing their application. These concessions, with their restrictions, are in stark contrast to the major building projects proposed by the companies behind the tunnel and monorail projects. DOC is considering right now whether to grant concessions for the tunnel and monorail to be constructed.
Why does Save Fiordland think that the Department of Conservation (DOC) is ignoring process in giving 'intention to grant' concessions for the monorail and tunnel projects?
DOC is required to abide by the constraints of the Fiordland National Park Management Plan (FNPMP), published in 2007, when considering projects that will operate within Fiordland National Park. This is a public and extensive document, finalised following a period of consultation that involved more than 2,000 submissions, and is easy to download and read from this link. To quote from the preface of this important document: "The Management Plan for Fiordland National Park was reviewed in accordance with section 47 of the National Parks Act 1980. This is a statutory document and provides for the management of Fiordland National Park in accordance with the General Policy for National Parks 2005 and the Act." The tunnel would affect a highly sensitive part of Fiordland National Park, namely the Hollyford valley, as well as part of Mount Aspiring National Park, which is also controlled by a management plan that you can download and read here. The monorail would not fall within a national park but does fall within conservation land, that DOC is also required to protect, and arguably that conservation land should be in a national park as it is within the World Heritage area (see below).
Why is World Heritage status so important to the opposition of the tunnel and the monorail projects?
To quote from the Fiordland National Park Management Plan (FNPMP): "There is an obligation on the Department of Conservation to manage the World Heritage Area in such a way that its integrity is preserved. Although Te Wähipounamu - South West New Zealand World Heritage Area contains internationally popular tourist destinations like Milford Sound / Piopiotahi, its overwhelming landscape character is wild and unpopulated. The World Conservation Union (IUCN) have recognised it as one of the world’s great areas of wilderness. Because World Heritage Areas are international tourist icons, the challenge for the Department of Conservation is to educate visitors about the area’s heritage values and carefully manage visitor growth to avoid unacceptable impacts. The prime obligation is to protect Te Wähipounamu - South West New Zealand World Heritage Area’s biodiversity and ecological integrity." Both the tunnel and the monorail projects would be in the World Heritage area.
Why is the forest in this World Heritage area particularly important to New Zealand and the world?
To quote from the FNPMP, "About two-thirds of Fiordland National Park is forested: it is the largest continuous area of indigenous forest remaining in New Zealand. Beech forest predominates but podocarp and other species are also abundant. The vegetation has complex multi-layered structures characteristic of rainforests, with a dense covering of wet mosses, liverworts, lichens and filmy-ferns on the ground and on tree trunks. The understorey is made up of diverse shrub species such as coprosma, broadleaf, five finger and various ferns." Fiordland is a stronghold for many of the less common of New Zealand’s endemic birds, whose habitats would be destroyed and carved up by the proposed monorail and tunnel, as well as being disrupted through traffic noise.