Keep Discovering

The Press-News column July 23

( Mike’s weekly column in The Press, first published July 23.)

It’s not Disneyland.

Last week’s rejection of the Milford Dart Tunnel proposal was a courageous decision by the Conservation Minister. Courageous because the company directorship behind the proposal reads like a membership list of the Tory old boys club. And what a pompous put-down from the company’s managing director, Tom Elworthy, who ridiculed the Minister’s decision as a case of “National trying to out-green the Greens.”  You didn’t have to be a Llama-blanket wearing, free-range Greenie to see the repugnant stupidity of  drilling a bus tunnel through the Alpine Fault, defacing Glenorchy, killing Te Anau and spewing half of million tonnes of tunnel spoil into the Hollyford valley. It’s remarkable that the Department of Conservation allowed this project to grow legs for so long. The only people I know that supported the fast-track tunnel trip to Milford Sound are impatient people, generally from Auckland, who think exploring the wonders of Fiordland, is currently too time-consuming.  (Even though they could always fly from Queenstown to Milford.) The bus tunnel would have brazenly pandered to the speedy, tick-list  tourist set, who try and pack a week’s sightseeing into two days – and have the concentration span of a fruit fly.  Our World-Heritage listed wilderness area should never have to surrender its soul to shameless expedience. It will be fascinating to see whether the Fiordland Link Experience ( the catamaran, all-terrain vehicle and monorail excursion ), is also rejected later this year. The most contentious aspect to this rather convoluted proposal is the monorail trip through the Snowden Forest, requiring the clear-felling of tens of thousands of beech trees.  Once again, the sacrificial lamb would be the tourist hub of Te Anau, which would be by-passed. There’s a lot to be said for safeguarding the splendour of slow travel in exceptionally scenic areas of precious wilderness. Fiordland is not Disneyland.

Folly in Latimer.

At risk of being burnt at the stake, the over-hyped Cardboard Cathedral is leaving me seriously underwhelmed. Why has it been built on such an annoying angle? No one seems to have a clear answer.  The tubular interior and stain-glassed frontage is attractive enough, but to suggest this building is a prime candidate for “iconic status” is a pipedream. The vast bulk of its exterior is unfailingly ugly, like a cheap and nasty A-framed holiday camp cabin, supersized on peptides. Driving down Madras St, its jutting intrusion on the skyline is jarring. Maybe in time, landscaping around its back end, will help smooth the sharp edges. The building’s official website not only assures the world that the cardboard will never go soggy, (woops), but far from being transitional, we’re going to be saddled with this triangular erection for 50 years.

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