Court battle looms over development proposalsTe Anua locals are vowing to fight the proposed Milford Tunnel and monorail projects in the courts if the Minister of Conservation grants approval for the projects as expected later this year. The Save Fiordland group held a town meeting earlier this week where it was decided to form an incorporated society and to start fundraising for the looming court battle should the minister grant concessions to Infinity Investment Groups which wants to build a monorail through Snowdon Forest and parts of Fiordland National Park, and Milford Dart Ltd which is hoping to construct a one-lane tunnel beneath the mountains of Mt Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks. One of the primary concerns of Save Fiordland is that both developments would jeopardise the area’s UNESCO World Heritage status. Fiordland National Park and Snowden Forest are both in the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area. “I’m absolutely convinced it will damage its reputation,” said Save Fiordland spokesperson Daphne Taylor. “It’s an amazing area that’s internationally recognised. And our tourism economy – not just Southland’s, but New Zealand’s – depends on it. People come here because we have world heritage areas. “I would hate to think they were going to be called into question because of these developments.” In 2009 the Elbe Valley in Dresden, Germany, was removed from UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Areas because of a bridge that was built through the valley. UNESCO said the €160m ($252m) bridge destroyed the "universal value" of the 18km-long section of the valley which had been protected. In another twist, when Wilderness asked Taylor if she believed either group had the money to finance the multi-million dollar projects she replied that no-one “expects either proposal to be built by the proposers”. “These guys are property investors, they do property investment well and then they flick it on and they tend to flick it on to overseas investors,” said Taylor. In the October 2011 issue, Wilderness Gale reported on how DOC gave freehold title to Crystal Valley – a 198ha parcel of sub-alpine land valued at $320,000 in the Craigieburn Range to Blackfish Ltd, an Australian-owned company which also owned neighbouring Porter’s Ski Area. In return DOC received a 70ha block of coastal lowland forest at Steep Head Gulley on Banks Peninsula valued at $600,000. Blackfish went on to sell its interests in Porters Aki Area, including Crystal Valley, for $6.9m to PSA Capital Ltd, which is 60 per cent owned by Russian investors and 40 per cent owned by Australian interests. At the time, Michael Sleigh, a current director of Milford Dart Ltd, was a director of Blackfish. When asked if MDL planned to build the tunnel itself if the concession was granted or if it would sell the concession on, Sleigh said: “Our intention has always been to build the tunnel. That’s what we’ve applied for, but we’ll see.” He said there is interest among investors to help finance the tunnel. “There has been interest over the years in it and we just remain of the view that it’s a compelling proposition.” - Alistair Hall
When we asked readers which of these statements is avalanche fact, not avalanche myth, this is how they respondedThe expert says According to Andrew Hobman, Mountain Safety Council’s avalanche programme manager there are several myths associated with avalanches. He says up to 90 per cent of avalanches that involve people are triggered by the party and are not the result of natural forces. However, the stats show more climbers die in avalanches in summer than die in winter - proving when you're in avalanche terrain you can never let your guard down. Make as much noise as you like - you're not going to set off an avalanche that way. “The yodelling shepherd at the bottom of the valley cannot trigger an avalanche," says Hobman. Find out more about avalanches 'The truth about avalanches' in the avalanches article.
Award-winning Wilderness[caption id="attachment_20706" align="aligncenter" width="1280"] Posing for photos at the Magazine Publisher Awards at the Pullman Hotel on June 28, 2012 in Auckland, New Zealand. Photo: Simon Watts/Getty Images for the MPA[/caption] Wilderness has won the coveted Magazine of the Year award at the Magazine Publishers Association annual awards. Wilderness competed in the Sport and Leisure category and beat out other finalists including NZ Rugby World, NZ Fishing World and Boating New Zealand. It is the second time Wilderness has scooped the award, which is hotly contested among publishers, and recognises Wilderness’s leading position in the sport and leisure category. But that wasn’t the only success for Wilderness on the night – staff writer Josh Gale won Journalist of the Year for his outstanding feature writing. Wilderness was singled out for developing a niche market and 'growing readership during some tough years'. The judges also praised Wilderness's print and online presence: 'The merging of print and online is very impressive. The whole team should be extremely proud. A great package!' The judges said of Gale's writing: 'Impressive, a deserving winner', 'Great subject matter', and 'A fantastic grasp of the issues and presents them well'.
Concessions granted for aerial hunting in wilderness areas[caption id="attachment_20707" align="aligncenter" width="1280"] The NZDa says heli-hunting will have detrimental effects on the recreation opportunities of trampers and hunters. Photo: Alistair Hall[/caption] New Zealand’s last untouched Wilderness Areas have been opened up to aerially assisted trophy hunting (AATH) raising the spectre of helicopters buzzing around these untamed, untouched lands. Despite, the Conservation Act 1987 specifically preventing any access by vehicles and livestock, the construction of tracks and buildings into Wilderness Areas, five AATH concessions for the Hooker-Landsborough, Adams and Olivine Wilderness Areas by associate Conservation Minister Peter Dunne have been granted. They are being granted under section 17Q of the Conservation Act and section 22 of the Wild Animal Control Act. Mr Dunne said he was obliged to consider the five applications within the framework of current legislation and has taken into account the recent public submission process. “I am concerned about the actual and potential impact that AATH has on other users of public conservation land, therefore I have decided to grant the permits for two years, rather than the 10 years applied for,” Mr Dunne said. “Furthermore, AATH will not be allowed within the Olivine Wilderness Area unless animal numbers exceed departmental guidelines and more control is required – this will be determined by the Otago Conservator.” Mr Dunne added: “I accept that AATH activities have an adverse effect on recreational ballot hunting and believe conflict can best be avoided through a total separation of the activities. Ways to achieve this separation will be considered by the Department of Conservation and the Tahr Liaison Group.” One good piece of news for trampers was that AATH would be excluded from a proposed block, WA03, within the Hooker-Landsborough Wilderness Area. This is a small block in the Mt Hooker/Mark’s Flat area popular with trampers, climbers and hunters. NZDA spokesperson Snow Hewetson was disappointed with the announcement. “Aerial assisted trophy hunting is totally inappropriate for those areas and for the designation of Wilderness Areas,” he said. “As far as I am concerned once you allow that kind of thing into a Wilderness Area, the designation of a Wilderness Area no longer exists in my opinion.” He says people visiting these areas will be affected by helicopter noise as concessionaires fly their clients in and out. “If you’re there when the weather is fine it could be two or three times a day.” Concession holders will have the following conditions applied:
- The concessionaire must not shoot or authorise shooting from helicopters except where a wounded animal needs to be killed for humane reasons;
- The concessionaire must not carry out any form of hazing of wild animals (being the persecution, harassment or maltreatment of wild animals using a helicopter); and
- The concessionaire must not use a helicopter to herd wild animals in any situation where that activity would interfere with:
- the safe enjoyment of public conservation land by other users;
- the control of wild animals by recreational hunting.