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Glenorchy residents fear consequences of tunnel

Glenorchy, tunnel, routeburn, MLD
Glenorchy, tunnel, routeburn, MLD
tunnel, routeburn, MLD
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Friday, 15th June 2012 Written by Alistair Hall
The small community of Glenorchy fears the proposed private bus tunnel that will run from near Routeburn Shelter, through the Humboldt and Ailsa mountains, to the Hollyford River will badly affect the town’s economy.

Glenorchy local and tour operator Vladka Kennett is helping spearhead opposition to Milford Dart Ltd’s (MDL) plan to build the bus-only 11.5km tunnel through parts of Mt Aspiring and Fiordland national parks. She says all the 250-odd people that make up the Glenochy community are against the tunnel, which they say will affect local businesses.

“Glenorchy as a village exists because of the location,” says Kennett. “The village, the businesses, live on the fact that we are on the doorstep of the national park. We live on the fact that we are the gateway to various tracks, including the Routeburn, Rees-Dart and others.

“[The tunnel] would definitely affect lots of local businesses. We don’t think [the busses] will even stop in Glenorchy, even for the toilet because it’s only 40-minutes from Queenstown.

“It will go through the national park, under the Routeburn and it will totally destroy the atmosphere of the place.”

The community is particularly angry that the investors behind MLD are not locals. “It’s really personal for everyone in Glenorchy, “ she says, “But the people who suggested it and who want to profit from it don’t live here, they live in other places in New Zealand. They just came up with this idea.”

Kennett says New Zealand offers a unique proposition to international tourists – wild and remote areas with good infrastructure in place to enable people to easily enjoy it – and the tunnel would ruin that, making New Zealand similar to other European countries like Switzerland and Austria where there are kilometres of tunnels running through the mountains.

“Why would people from Europe travel for two days to come to a place they could see in Europe? They can go up the fiords to Norway and other places in Europe,” Kennett says. “What’s our difference?

“In New Zealand you can see the wilderness at the same time as travelling the whole country. In other countries, especially Europe, it’s hard to go and see virgin [wilderness] places like you see here. You can go to really wild places in the world but it will possibly be in a third world country where it is difficult to have a nice night in a B&B and the next day be in the middle of nowhere.”

Kennett says the community is nervous about challenging a business with “resources, money and lawyers” but said they are prepared to fight “right to the end”.

“What is most important now is to bring it to the national level,” Kennett says. “I think a lot of people are not aware of what’s going on. They don’t realise it is a privately owned company. They think it is another national road going through.”

The Glenorchy community has set up the website stopthetunnel.co.nz and established a petition at change.org in an effort to prevent the tunnel going ahead.
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