Monorail proposal conflicts with NZ tourism brand
Monorail proposal conflicts with NZ tourism
July 21, 2013
A plan for a 41 kilometre monorail from Queenstown to Milford Sound conflicts with what the New Zealand tourism brand stands for in the international and domestic markets, a University of Canterbury tourism expert says.
The Department of Conservation has been warned proposals to construct a monorail to Milford Sound could threaten the region’s world heritage park status.
UC’s Dr Girish Prayag says the very essence of world heritage status conferred to an area, place or region means strong conservation and preservation issues are in place. He understands the need to make Milford Sound more accessible to visitors but says it goes against the pristine image the region has protected for so long.
``This conflict is not uncommon to world heritage sites. There is always the issue of whether economic imperatives will triumph over heritage conservation.
``The monorail plan detracts from the clean and green image that New Zealand is selling abroad. When you focus your marketing on the pristine environment the destination offers, people want to come and see, especially from emerging markets.
``When more people come to see, the infrastructure has to follow. Inevitably, economic benefits will take priority over conservation issues, especially with New Zealand tourism growth stagnating.
``A monorail would dramatically change the landscape of the region which includes the Routeburn track. In fact, it could be an oddity in the landscape, what we call visual pollution. As for the environmental pollution, I am sure benefits against the cost have been weighed up.’’
The Fiordland National Park was awarded the world heritage status by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) which has removed world heritage site status from its list before, Dr Prayag says.
If the monorail is approved, the damage to the area, to the reputation of New Zealand in matters of conservation and the overall image of the country would not bare thinking about, he says.
``Tourism will take a severe blow if we get stripped of World Heritage site status. It’s not a question of what other sites around the world are doing or have proposed as visitor facilities, but more about what we want this country and its tourism industry to stand for, the values we want our children to appreciate.
``We want this generation and future ones to be able to walk the Routeburn Track with the same feeling as we do today. This is one of the few remaining magical places without a monorail with loads of tourists.’’
A hearing commissioner is expected to produce a report on the monorail project later this year.