Tunnel opposition mounts
The Southland Times reports that the Venture Southland joint committee has this week voted to submit against the proposed Milford-Dart tunnel plan and write to politicians in opposition. The paper’s online edition says Venture outhland’s strategic projects manager, Steve Canny, and Distinction Hotels chain owner Geoffrey Thomson spoke out against the tunnel at the meeting.
Mr Thomson, who has hotels in Te Anau and Queenstown, said the tunnel would affect tourism across the lower South
Island. Claims that the tunnel would bring more tourism were based on false logic and inaccurate assumptions, he said.
It would mean people would leave New Zealand earlier, missing out on Te Anau, the rest of the lower south and the Southern Scenic Route, he said.
Tourists would buy cheaper, shorter package tours, not knowing they were missing out on the Milford Rd, something the
industry had been building up for more than a decade. Mr Canny reportedly outlined the risks behind the proposal, citing what he said appeared to be serious flaws in the design, the rationale behind the tunnel and its financing. “It’s a fairly
dodgy project,” he is quoted as saying. After the meeting, Milford-Dart’s managing director, Tom Elworthy, told the Southland Times Mr Thomson’s criticism was narrow-minded. The project would not stop people using the Southern Scenic Route if they wanted to, he said. He also rejected Mr Canny’s criticism of the design, saying the tunnel was well designed for its purpose.
“We’ve been working on it for six years and it’s designed to the nth degree.” He said he was confident the company had adequate finance for the project and he was not surprised Venture Southland would be submitting against it “It’s not about Te Anau, it’s about the whole South Island and New Zealand tourism industry.” Meanwhile, Southland District Mayor Frana Cardno has this week written a lengthy opinion piece in the paper against the project, urging readers to support a Facebook page opposing the tunnel and to make their own submissions against it.