A Southland company has failed in its bid to take fresh water for export from Doubtful Sound in the world heritage Fiordland National Park.
Southland Water 2000 Ltd applied to take 40,000 cubic metres of fresh water from the plume of the Manapouri hydro-electricity generating station for 20 hours on 12 occasions a year, for 12 years.
They wanted to build facilities and use a bulk-carrier ship and two tugs to start up an industry taking crystal clear water for export bottling.
The pristine waters of Fiordland do not come under the conservation estate, and the Department of Conservation has no control over the Doubtful Sound water.
The application to set up the water export industry in the world heritage park was declined by Environment Southland (ES).
Its hearings committee released the decision today after ES staff recommended against the proposal going ahead.
To offset the adverse effects on the environment, the company said it would have established a trust for the benefit of the Southland community and would have paid the trust 20c for every cubic metre of water taken.
It was also going to give 20c a cubic metre of water taken to existing tourist operators in Deep Cove as compensation for any "perceived adverse effects".
Environment Southland received 846 submissions, mostly against the application.
Dunedin-based film makers Natural History New Zealand said the water-export business had the potential for serious consequences on Fiordland as a pristine wilderness.
"Although the risk of an oil spill was low, the potential for an environmental disaster was high," managing director Michael Stedman said.
If the application had been granted film companies would no longer have regarded Doubtful Sound as a wilderness area, and would have no longer filmed in the area, he said today.
He said it was a national environmental relief that the application had been declined.
Southland Water agreed that the construction of an intake structure and pipeline and the traverse of Doubtful Sound to Deep Cove by a bulk water carrier vessel were non-complying activities.
But the company considered the adverse effects of the proposal would have been minor.
Former trade and industry minister Hugh Templeton told the hearings committee that declining the proposal meant a loss of economic opportunity for Southland.
The company said opposition views to their proposal exaggerated the potential adverse effects of the operation, using terms such as "shipping disaster" and "mining in the national park".
They said the area was already industrialised by the Manapouri power station, tourist vessels, the wharf at Deep Cove and visits by various cruise liners.
But the Royal Forest and Bird Society said adverse effects of a tanker in the world heritage park would have been more than minor and could not be mitigated by the company's compensation offer.
The hearings committee said there were intrusive visual effects of a large vessel, transiting Doubtful Sound four times on each visit, which would have had considerable impact on the wilderness values of the Doubtful Sound area.
"The industrialisation of the area, which this proposal would represent, has the potential to move tourists, in search of some degree of naturalness, to another more remote destination," the committee said in its findings.