Not room for monorail and Milford tunnel – promoter

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The developer promoting a Fiordland monorail says he’d fold his cards if the proposed Milford Dart tunnel was built first.

Fiordland Link Experience’s Bob Robertson is promoting a catamaran/all-terrain vehicle/monorail trip from Queenstown to Lake Te Anau, as an alternative to the longer road trip to Milford.

Robertson says the chances of both the $175 million 43km monorail and $170m 11km tunnel being built are financially remote.

“This is going to be immensely difficult for any of the two operations to get across the line, you just increase that exponentially with two.

“I would fold my cards if [the tunnel developers] were going to actually do it first, and I think, behind the scenes, if we did it first they’d have to consider [pulling out].

“Anyone who tells you differently is pipe-dreaming – it’s very difficult unless you’ve got $100 million or $200m spare in your back pocket.”

Robertson says Fiordland Link Experience would halve the bus journey from Queenstown to Te Anau Downs but still be a slower way to Milford than the proposed tunnel, connecting the Routeburn with the Hollyford valleys.

“We’re not interested in the speed, we’re the experience,” he says.

Robertson says his trip connects Lakes Wakatipu and Te Anau.

“Milford is the secondary part but it makes our operation viable.”

Robertson says his Riverstone Holdings would spend about $3 million a year marketing its venture, and $4m in the first year.

“That $3m will grow the pie incrementally.

“What I would like to see is three new initiatives in New Zealand, equivalent in size to the monorail.

“Then we’ve got a real marketing push so we can drag people away from new markets like Brazil, Mexico, etc, that are putting money into infrastructure enabling tourists to experience the country better.”

Robertson notes either of Milford’s two big boat operators, Real Journeys and Southern Discoveries, could end up running the catamaran from Queenstown to Mt Nicholas.

The monorail proponents had already spent $5m planning their venture, he says.

Department of Conservation approved in principle the granting of a concession easement for the monorail in December.

That’s open for public submissions till March 19.

Robertson visited Queenstown yesterday (Tuesday) to address a public meeting.

At earliest, he says it will take two and a half years for the venture to be up and running.