Land grabbing by the Department of Destruction

What is the point of having a Department of Conservation if it doesn’t, erm, conserve anything?

Jump on the Department of Conservation website and you’ll see no less than five current consultations for concessions (at time of print).

A couple are fairly innocuous – a bach licence at Springs Junction, and guided canyoning trips – but others incite heart palpitations in anyone who’s ever appreciated the untouched beauty of some of our national parks.

On the roster for consultation are a few meaty proposals: the Fiordland link experience monorail and the Dart passage tunnel. The monorail gig is a proposed monorail with associated construction and a mountain biking track through the Snowdon Forest Conservation Area, with terminus facilities on a marginal strip along the Mararoa River and near Te Anau Downs. The Dart idea is a concession to build and operate a bus tunnel from the Routeburn Road in Mt Aspiring National Park to the Hollyford Road in Fiordland National Park. In other words, the very area where the Routeburn track lies.

Conservation minister Kate Wilkinson has given notice of her intention to grant the concessions and now it’s up to us – yes, you, me and your cats – to protest if we don’t like the idea. You might call it democracy in action. I call it utter madness.

Admittedly, we’re in the throes of a gleeful National government that desperately wants to get its mitts on the purported untapped gazillions that lie beneath pristine conservation areas. But a monorail? Too far.

What is the point of having a Department of Conservation if it doesn’t, erm, conserve anything? I’d like to propose a new name for it: the Department of Destruction.

The basic premise of a national park and designated conservation areas is that they should be preserved and untouched for future generations. If the minister doesn’t understand this concept, I would suggest the job go to someone who does.

Thankfully for anyone who gives a fig, Federated Mountain Clubs is protesting on your behalf.

In its latest newsletter, it notes that the proposed tunnel will exit into the valley floor within view of the Routeburn track: “Will future walkers of this iconic track have to put up with noise and reverberation from bus engines, as it reflects and bounces off the walls of the valley sides, as part of their experience? Great Walks are more than just natural beauty – natural quiet is just as important too!”

Help stop the madness, before it is too late.

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