I read, with interest, Mr Robertson’s latest attempt to sell us his monorail project. Some numbers made me ponder. Mr Robertson thinks he can make ends meet with 75,000 passengers. Assuming the whole project comes in at the often quoted $200 million, and a 10% return on this high risk investment is deemed reasonable, the finance cost would be $20 million. Guesstimating the running costs at a mere $5 million (after all Mr Robertson tells us that international tourism is a cut throat business, so most employees would not see much more than the minimum wage), that makes $25 million. Let’s divide this by 75,000 customers, and we arrive at a ticket price of $333.33. This, however, does not include the bus ride to Milford or Te Anau or any cruise!
You can’t believe the price? Me neither! The problem is that $200 million won’t be enough. Mr Robertson fails to mention that as yet, he did not manage to have the whole of the proposed monorail route surveyed (as highlighted in the engineers report submitted for consent approval). In other words, he doesn’t even know if his monorail will make it up those hills. The projected route is crossing known landslides and so far unknown ones are likely to be encountered, no provisions appear to have been made for this. Maximum flood levels of the rivers to be crossed have also not been established. If the NIWA report submitted by the applicant is anything to go by, we are in for a minimum of 6m high concrete pylons across the whole width of the valley floors. There is no mention of the depth of the river deposits within the valleys, so the only thing we know about them is that they are highly prove to liquefaction in case of an earthquake. With my background as an engineering geologist, I know all too well that construction costs quickly spiral out of control, once such problems are encountered.
A quick search on the Internet ( http://www.monorails.org/tmspages/HowMuch.html ) shows that Monorails are very expensive to build, even in countries where a day’s labour costs less than New Zealand’s hourly minimum wage, construction costs of monorails are still several times higher than anything that Mr Robertson proposes.
What the project would most certainly do is risk our area’s World Heritage status, as stated by UNESCO
. How anyone can think that this will entice an extra 30,000 tourists to come and visit is beyond me.