Milford Opportunities Newsletter

29 November 2023

Milford Opportunities Newsletter

Kia ora.  Welcome to our November Newsletter.

In this edition, we hear from new Milford Opportunities Board member Dave Bamford on his recent trip into Piopiotahi, we get updates from the Comms & Engagement, Transport & Infrastructure and Heritage & Ngāi Tahu Partnership workstreams, and we say mā te wā to a treasured member of our Team.

As always please share with those who may have an interest in this work.

Ngā mihi
Phil Tisch & Lizzy Sutcliffe
Milford Opportunities Engagement & Communications Team

Milford Opportunities Newsletter

Te Anau Project Hub opening to visitors

The Milford Opportunities Project Hub in Te Anau is opening for public drop-ins in December.

While the project has been working from the Te Anau Milford Opportunities Project Hub and running engagement sessions here regularly over winter, it has not been open for casual public drop-ins during this time. With the busy visitor season upon us, we are looking to reopen the hub to the public in December. This will enable locals, operators and visitors to call in ask questions and provide feedback. We’re currently in the process of recruiting for a person to fill the front desk role.

We’ll share opening hours once these are confirmed but in the meantime, you are welcome to email to arrange to come and visit the project and talk to us.

For other ways to get in touch or provide feedback visit:

Farewell Fi

This month we farewelled a key member of our Engagement & Communications Team, Principal Engagement Advisor Fi Roberts who has been called back to her “blue whanau” to fill the role of District Prosecutions Manager for the Police.

Alongside her teammates, Fi worked hard to rebuild connections to the Project across local communities and beyond, embodying the project’s commitment to listen, understand and work to deliver positive change for people and place. She (and her four-legged sidekick Walt) will be missed by the whole Milford Opportunities team and stakeholders alike.

She said it was an honour to work with such amazing people/communities and in an incredible place, and her parting plea was that everyone “please take care and slow down on the roads!”

Go well Fi – we know you’ll be keeping an eye on progress.

Reflections from a new board member

After a visit to Piopiotahi earlier this month, tourism industry advisor Dave Bamford reflects on his observations and why he is excited about change.

I have long had a passion for better respect for, and management of, New Zealand’s national parks. During Covid I had written an essay pleading for improved tourism management in all of our national parks (see chapter 5 of 100% Pure Future). I am aware of the challenges and demanding logistics and expense for DOC and others to manage tourism infrastructure in such a remote, iconic and treasured national park.

I’ve had a real interest in the concept of Milford Opportunities Project since 2018. I was very surprised earlier this year, to be appointed to the Milford Opportunities Board by the respective ministers. It is good to join a seasoned board.

During 40 years of intermittent visits to Milford Sound Piopiotahi for work, tramping, mountain holidays or biking, as I did last summer, I wasn’t focused on the management of Milford Sound. I did feel it gets overcrowded, especially at peak hours during the day, and that the infrastructure, particularly wastewater management, was ageing.

For me, visiting Milford Sound Piopiotahi and the Milford corridor in early November, with Programme Director Chris Goddard and Heritage and Ngāi Tahu Partnership Workstream Lead John Twidle, was a chance to have a brief look at its complex management. I was troubled by some of what I saw.

Parts of Milford Sound are disconnected from each other which disrupts the visitor experience.  There was a big contrast between the tourism infrastructure at Freshwater Basin and the fishing and recreational amenities at Deepwater Basin.

The tourism infrastructure at the cruise terminals gives a reasonable first impression for visitors – although when they get off buses after the long journey they are focussed on getting on their cruise boat rather than assessing the management of a national park! When one goes to the southwestern part of the Sound (Deepwater basin) one finds a seemingly unloved area which includes some staff accommodation, soft adventure tourism operations and recreational fishers mixed in with the commercial ones. Looking around the area of the old Milford hotel and general facilities, I was struck by the need to better redesign the village and improve infrastructure.

I left Milford Sound/Piopiotahi reflecting on what a special place it is, and how incredible it could be when cultural values are considered, noise impacts are further managed, infrastructure is improved and there are sufficient finances to both maintain the marine and terrestrial environment and provide a seamless, regenerative visitor experience. It is certainly timely and courageous to move the assessed Milford Opportunities Masterplan forward.

I look forward to working hard as a board member over the next six months on this important piece of work.

Meet the Team – Experience Design Workstream Lead

Last newsletter we profiled one half of MOP’s experience design team Jock Edmundson. This week we hear from the other half – Experience Design Workstream Lead Tania Short.

My interest in joining this project lies in the understanding that the enjoyment and appreciation we hold for this place today must be safeguarded through conscious and deliberate stewardship. As this Ngāi Tahu whakataukī (proverb) says – “Mō tātou, ā, mō kā uri ā muri ake nei” – which translates as “for us and our children after us.”

I bring a human centred and design thinking lens to the feasibility testing of the Milford Masterplan.

Most recently I’ve led the team within DOC to manage impacts to Tongariro and to encourage a shift in behaviours stemming from the popularity of the Alpine Crossing. My background is in Design, storytelling, toi Māori/arts and culture and experience development.

Within the Tourism workstream, our focus spans various aspects including transport modes, accommodation, food and beverage services, destinations, and experiences. Our objective is to assess the viability of the Masterplan solutions, testing for effectiveness against the Masterplan Pillars and Key Concepts.

Meet the Team – Experience Design Workstream Lead

Heritage update

Heritage and Ngāi Tahu Partnership Workstream Lead John Twidle, talks about the importance of his workstream and what’s happening in this space currently.

People have been visiting the fiords and lakes of the southern south for hundreds of years – it’s important to recognise that and to preserve that history.

While the stunning landscape is the drawcard for many, it’s the stories of place, told through the voices of the explorers, sealers, conservationists, farmers, road builders, transients and settlers, be they Māori, European, Asian or from wherever they came … that is what makes this place unique and that is what sets it apart from everywhere else in the world.

We need to see the place through the eyes of each of those people and we need to respect each of their perspectives of how they view the place, how this place is special to them, and how they want to protect it and enjoy it into the future.

The grave of Milford Sound residents Donald and Elizabeth Sutherland

MOP has a focus along the Milford Highway and at Milford Sound Piopiotahi itself. We have been working with Origin Consultants to understand and record this place from an ‘all people’s’, heritage perspective. By delving back into the past, doing the research and field work, talking to the people, and capturing all that information, we will soon have a record that will back-fill many of the current gaps in our knowledge of this area.

The place is also of great cultural significance to Ngāi Tahu and, for them too, it has a rich history – one of exploration, food gathering, medicinal and cultural harvesting and other traditional practices. Across those hundreds of years, Waitaha, Kāti Māmoe and Ngāi Tahu have been routinely travelling through these places. Piopiotahi is their ‘cradle of mythology’ and, working alongside Kauati Heritage Consultants, MOP is looking at that aspect in order to guide the project with that perspective in mind.

This Heritage Assessment work started in mid-2023. Some of the work has already happened and reports are being written – other work is on-going. We expect to have all the reports completed in early 2024 when they will not only provide key information for our work but also serve as a valuable resource for anyone who needs them to help inform their planning and future decision-making.

Knowing our place well helps us understand our context better and informs our thinking when it comes to doing the right things at the right places. It also ensures that our unique past is recorded properly and will never be lost.

Recent Kantar Research delivered a strong message from both International and New Zealand visitors alike. They want to see New Zealand’s indigenous culture on display at the natural and iconic places they visit, and they want to hear the stories that are unique to our country.

As tourism operators know well, understanding our past connects us to the depth of our culture and our history and allows us to share it with the world through symbolism, storytelling, and behaviours – ultimately enriching the place and the visitor experience.

Engagement & Communications update

Phil Tisch and Lizzy Sutcliffe

We are refining our planned engagement programme for the coming months to align with feedback, best practice and the views of the Board and incoming Government Ministers. The Better Business Case method we are following requires us to do high-quality engagement with stakeholders, agencies and subject experts. To achieve this, we expect to undertake further in-depth engagement on key topics as options are developed and feasibility testing continues. We will share this in the new year and provide a timeline for when these engagements will take place – likely early autumn. This targeted engagement will complement the ongoing programme of updates and meetings for stakeholders. We are working to swiftly fill the Principal Engagement Advisor Role as this work ramps up.

The focus for the last month has been to reach out to organisations and communities who we haven’t spoken to in a while. Updates have been given to the Piopiotahi community, the Fiordland Marine Guardians and the Southland Chamber of Commerce. We have met individually with representatives of Glenorchy Air, Milford Sound Air, Southern Alps Air, FMC and Destination Queenstown.  Planning is underway for further discussions with statutory bodies, the aviation sector and company owners.


Thank you Milford Sound community

We visited Piopiotahi on 22 November and were really pleased to have around 18 community members give us their time that evening. Thanks for listening to us and feeding in your views, and to Southern Discoveries for generously hosting. We will write up the feedback we heard and share this via our newsletter.

As a mostly younger audience living in Piopiotahi you stand to be one of the most effected groups from any long-term changes to the management of this place.  We would really like to hear more from you. To get in touch visit Contact us – Milford Opportunities or you can email Lizzy directly:

Transport & Infrastructure update

Courtney Hart and Tom Hopkins provide a quick  look at progress on the many different aspects currently being investigated for the Transport & Infrastructure Workstream.

  • Angus & Associates has finalised their Te Anau Downs to Cascade Creek cycle trail economic and social impact assessment and Boffa Miskell’s environmental values assessment field work is now also completed.
  • Stantec Ltd have completed the energy assessment assumptions for future energy demand and their analysis of energy sources is underway. The team have been working on what the masterplan is likely to need energy wise and balancing it up with what energy can be generated.
  • Boffa Miskell’s final landscape values assessment is close to completion, this will give us guidance regarding what (if any) new structures could be appropriately accommodated and if so, how can we make them subtle?
  • Southern Land Ltd have completed the field work for the walking and cycling experiences feasibility assessment. Their assessment of the existing recreation values and feasibility assessment are due to be completed by February.
  • WSP’s engineering feasibility assessment information gathering and review stage is underway with a familiarisation trip for natural hazard risk assessment and geotechnical engineering completed.
  • The information gathering and review stage of the transport system assessment and design is underway. Beca Ltd have been engaged with the aim of getting them into Milford Sound at peak time around Christmas to get a good understanding of peak traffic flows.
  • The transport technology request for proposal is out to market at the moment and we hope to have an appointment prior to Christmas.

Transport & Infrastructure update