"So, how're you liking New Zealand?"

It's a question most of us are guilty of having put to a tourist. Our desire that visitors to our country "like" us may come across as quaint or even insecure but I think pride is what's really behind our prying.

We know we live in one of the best places on the planet, but hearing it affirmed just one more time by someone from overseas couldn't hurt.

What visitors rave about most is the gob-smacking, pristine scenery of these shaky isles. So the prospect of a monorail traversing a section of back country South Island conservation land makes me more than a little uneasy.


I've done my share of tramping and the only thing more satisfying than marvelling at the splendour of this country's rugged landscapes is the knowledge that some real effort has been required in order to experience it first-hand. Views of the magnitude afforded by our most isolated beauty spots should be earned with a bit of sweat.

Snowdon Forest, as a stewardship area, doesn't have the same level of conservation protection as our national parks but that doesn't mean running a monorail through it is a good idea.

The thought of clearing a 29.5km-long, 6m-wide corridor of native trees to build a high-tech transport link, when there are already other options to reach the end point, leaves me cold.

Six metres may sound like not much, but pace it out next time you take a bush walk. Imagine that area cleared and a sleek rail line in its place.

If allowed to proceed, the proposed monorail track will be the longest in the world. That may — initially — be something we can market. But, in time, a longer track will be built elsewhere and we will still have lost a tract of our magical beech forest.

I'm willing to bet that most of the people who use Snowdon Forest recreationally are New Zealanders and they will be the big losers if this project goes ahead.

Tourists have always come here, despite there not being a cable car up every mountainside. And they will continue to do so, with or without the monorail.

They like our country the way it is.

Eveline Harvey is travel editor at nzherald.co.nz.