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Minister’s monorail decision hugely disappointing

Minister’s monorail decision hugely disappointing

Riverstone Holdings Ltd is deeply disappointed with the Minister of Conservation’s decision today to decline its concession application for a monorail to cross 29km of conservation land as part of the proposed Fiordland Link Experience.

Riverstone Holdings director Bob Robertson says the Minister’s decision to decline came as a surprise and New Zealanders should be concerned by the precedent being set.

“New Zealand is losing a huge opportunity to develop a world-class tourism experience at no cost to the taxpayer. The Fiordland Link Experience would have provided a significant boost to the economy, provided 1000 jobs and future-proofed our tourism industry with no more than a minor ecological impact as confirmed by the Department of Conservation and the Hearing Commissioner,” says Mr Robertson.

“The reasons given for this decision are deeply flawed. The Minister has ruled that he could not be satisfied the project would be financially viable – a decision based on studies he commissioned that two independent expert assessments, commissioned by us, judged to be manifestly wrong as their conclusions were based on old data and made a series of assumptions that could not be justified.

“Economic viability can never truly be satisfied until extensive engineering design has been undertaken, a detailed business case is developed and funding is sourced, which would take at least six months and hundreds of thousands of dollars to complete. This is why we asked the Minister to make economic viability a condition, which would need to be proven before construction began. This ensured the risk remained squarely with us. Given this, his decision does not stand to reason.”

To that end, we proposed the following condition regarding the project’s viability be included: ‘That the project has been the subject of a robust due diligence process certified by a qualified third party and has subsequently secured all capital (equity and debt) to successfully build, complete and fund the ongoing operations of the business’.

Riverstone Holdings has worked closely with the Department of Conservation over eight years to ensure all environmental impacts could be appropriately mitigated. The independent Hearing Commissioner’s report backed the conditions proposed and advised the monorail could be constructed with only minor environmental impacts.

“We have proven our commitment to the environment and this project at every step and our plans have been vindicated by experts. To have our application face constant delays and ultimately end up with a decision being made months out from a national election is incredibly disheartening,” says Mr Robertson.

“We recognise that there will always be opponents of innovative ideas, but having stuck to this process in good faith, and incurred costs of over $5 million, this is a tough pill to swallow. No business should have to suffer a process like this.

“If this project can’t be approved, given the stringent conditions agreed to, then the message being sent is that private business should shut the book on investing in any potential development on conservation land. It would be better for this to be made clear at the outset, rather than have New Zealand businesses incur enormous costs and time for no purpose.”


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