Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson must make the final decision on whether to allow the Milford Dart Tunnel, Green Party conservation spokeswoman Eugenie Sage says.
Ms Wilkinson was "dodging her responsibility for the decision over whether to allow a road tunnel to be dug in Fiordland National Park by delegating it to a Conservation Department manager", Ms Sage said yesterday.
In doing so, the minister was trying to avoid being involved in a highly controversial decision.
"The risk is the department will approve this intrusive proposal because of the Government's low value of conservation and environmental protection, but the minister doesn't want to face the public outrage that would spark."
She said a 25,000-signature petition presented to politicians in Wellington yesterday by three women from Glenorchy's Stop the Tunnel group showed how "important and politically sensitive this decision is".
The petition was presented on the steps of Parliament to National's Invercargill MP Eric Roy because Deputy Prime Minister Bill English, who had originally agreed to accept it, was not available.
Leslie van Gelder of Glenorchy said the petition would be discussed at a local government and environment select committee.
The group had hoped to meet Ms Wilkinson but were told the decision was going through the Department of Conservation process and the minister could not comment.
Last week, Department of Conservation media adviser Reuben Williams said the department was still preparing reports on concession applications for Milford Dart Ltd, which is proposing the tunnel, and Riverstone Holdings Ltd, which is proposing a monorail linking Lake Wakatipu and the Milford road.
The reports would be forwarded to DoC operations deputy director Sue Cosford, he said.By Christina McDonald of the Otago Daily Times