Not many tourism proposals deserve to fail on their artist's impression but the Fiordland monorail did. The image of a train on a low, raised track snaking across the wide green landscape in that part of the country never looked likely to be approved.

The scheme in detail looked even worse. Designed to reduce the journey from Queenstown to Milford Sound, the 44km monorail was one stage of a journey that would require four different modes of travel. Tourists would boat across Lake Wakatipu, transfer to an off-road vehicle for a bumpy 45km ride to the monorail, which would take them to the Te Anau-Milford road where a 90km bus trip would be ahead of them.

Conservation Minister Nick Smith has decided it cannot stand up on economic or environmental grounds. Yet he says it was a more difficult decision than his rejection of the Dart-Hollyford tunnel proposal that also would have shortened the road journey between the region's main tourist attractions.

The decision will be welcomed in the south, particularly in Te Anau which was going to be bypassed in both schemes. The region is proud of its World Heritage status and wary of any development that might mar its spectacular landscapes.


Dr Smith says the Government is still open to proposals for alternative access to Fiordland but he has set the environmental bar high. The Government is better for his green sympathies, though he must battle with the Cabinet's heavyweights at times. He has made the right call again.