Tourism operator to lessen impact

Real Journeys Ltd's Fiordland Navigator.

A TOURISM operator will be able to continue its boat business in Doubtful Sound after volunteering consent conditions to minimise its environmental impact.

A hearing for Real Journeys Ltd’s coastal permit consent renewal was held in January, where there was talk of possible increased trip numbers affecting the area’s wilderness and remoteness.

The permit allowed the operating of the 44m Fiordland Navigator, two tender vessels and up to 30 kayaks for day trips and back country trip activities in Fiordland, including Doubtful Sound.

Commissioner Sharon McGarry, in her hearing decision, concluded the environmental effects would be no more than minor following applicant-volunteered consent conditions.

She said it would ensure there was no increase in the existing level of commercial surface water activities undertaken by the applicant in Doubtful Sound.

An increase of trips in First Arm from 12 to 31 times each month was originally requested.

In a report for the hearing, Environment Southland consents officer George Gericke said the proposed change would mean an over-allocation of trips within the Doubtful Sound complex under the operative Regional Coastal Plan for Southland 2013.

However, it was explained at the hearing the consented-for figures did not reflect the actual number of vessels used at one time.

After the hearing, Real Journeys and Go Orange general manager Paul Norris confirmed the firms would volunteer conditions to mitigate effects.

This included to not overnight two vessels in the same area unless necessary, as well as to install a mooring in First Arm.

The installation would be subject to a resource consent.

In her decision, Ms McGarry said as there was not a given the mooring consent would be granted, she did not balance positive effects against the assessment of adverse effects.

The granted coastal permit consent allows up to 85 passengers plus crew for back country trips and up to 90 passengers plus crew for day trips.

An exception to this is during a Milford Rd closure when Milford Sound passengers are diverted to Doubtful Sound or when the vessel operated under another of its permits.

It is then allowed to take, on day trips, up to 150 passengers plus crew.

Real Journeys originally requested a consent term of 25 years; a term of 12 years was granted.

Two similar consents from tourism operators in the same area will be discussed at hearings this week.

Fiordland Cruises Ltd’s application was to be heard yesterday at 11am, and Offspring Travel Ltd’s was to be heard yesterday afternoon. Both were being held at Environment Southland.