Milford Opportunities Newsletter October 2023

27 October 2023

Milford Opportunities Project Newsletter October 2023

Kia ora and welcome to the October Milford opportunities Newsletter.

Early this month the Milford Opportunities Unit spent time in Te Anau as a team to meet with Board members, check in on how we are embedding Ngāi Tahu values into our work and plan the detail of our work programme over the coming months. How we engage our stakeholders and wider New Zealand is strong component in this.

Over the last nine months, the focus of the Engagement & Communications workstream has been to reach out to all those connected to Milford Sound Piopiotahi, whether they live, work, gather kai or recreate in the area, or value this special place from afar. We have sought to ensure this work is informed by the experience and wisdom of mana whenua, the community, interest groups, experts, tourism operators and users of the National Park and the Milford Highway. In total this amounts to 128.5 hours of engagement to date.

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to feed in so far.

We now have some work to do to build on what we’ve heard and the connections we’ve made as we shift from information gathering to options development based around the vision, goals and recommendations of the Milford Opportunities Masterplan. The intent is to provide space for richer, two-way engagement and we’ll be looking at what is possible and sharing more on this, including a timeframe, as the work shapes up over the next six weeks.

Ngā mihi

Phil Tisch, Fi Roberts & Lizzy Sutcliffe
Milford Opportunities Engagement & Communications Team

Kia ora from our new Board Chair

Kia ora koutou

Firstly, can I say how honoured I am to be appointed to Chair the Milford Opportunities Ministerial Advisory Board stewarding the project through this next important stage of its work.  I’d also like to acknowledge fellow Board Member Bill Day for doing a fantastic job in the acting Chair role for a number of months prior to my appointment.

Milford Sound, Piopiotahi is such an incredible and special place that has meaning to so many people in New Zealand and beyond.  From the long-held connection of the mana whenua Ngai Tahu, to commercial operators, to recreational users and visitors from across NZ and the globe, it is a place that is special to many and never fails to inspire.

During the winter of 2020 when our NZ borders were closed, I was fortunate enough to be snowed in to Milford Sound for 5 days.  Having the privilege of experiencing the magic of the place through storms, snow and eventually the clearing weather with only 8 other guests, village residents and a few cheeky kea is something that will always stay with me.

It’s my aim, through our work on the Milford Opportunities Project, that we land on a future that supports many more people to experience the very best of Milford Sound and in doing so preserves and enhances not only Milford itself but wider Fiordland for generations to come.

During the next months, the board will be visible about Southland and Otago.  As many of the board and unit live locally in the lower South Island, taking the opportunity to meet and test ideas is important.

I look forward to meeting many of you at some stage to hear your thoughts on the future of Piopiotahi/Milford Sound


Ngā mihi


Jenn Bestwick

Recent and upcoming engagement

Key engagement sessions from the last few weeks include a webinar for the Queenstown Chamber of Commerce on 28 September and an open session on the Kantar domestic and international consumer research results on October 5.

On 9 October MOP and the Fiordland Marine Guardians hosted a second cross agency hui to discuss potential opportunities and risks associated with the Fiordland marine environment. This was a rich and rewarding session which enabled valuable feedback and insights.

We were also delighted to have the opportunity to present to Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) members about the project on Thursday 19 October. Our Programme Director Chris Goddard and Board Member Dave Bamford presented to over 50 people resulting in some great feedback and further engagement work. Chris touched on the alignments between the vision of the Milford Opportunities Masterplan and TIA’s Tourism 2050 blueprint and asked how we build on this together. He acknowledged the great work the industry is doing to lead the way in building a regenerative tourism system.

These sessions continue into next week when we meet with the Southland Chamber of Commerce in Invercargill to discuss the masterplan to their membership. Chris will be presenting to Air New Zealand representatives on the project on 2 November.

Our next Te Anau drop-in day is 22 November. Anyone wishing to drop into the Te Anau Project Hub, 26 Town Centre can email our Principal Engagement Advisor Fi Roberts to set up a time.

Feedback from the Fiordland Business Association

The team met with the Fiordland Business Association back on 28 August, to go over their feedback on the masterplan recommendations, in particular what these might mean for Te Anau and its community.

We really appreciate the interest, support and constructive feedback the association continues to provide the project. The main points from this session included strong support for managed access, charging international visitors, developing multiple experiences and a Te Anau hub, use of sustainable practices and benefits for wider Southland. There were also concerns expressed around funding for this work not burdening local taxpayers.

Download a full summary of the conversation as a PDF file (1,072 KB)

Feedback from Milford residents

We visited Piopiotahi Milford Sound to talk to residents on 29 August. We heard that Milford Sound’s community is precious and strong and needs to be upheld.

We also heard concerns that access is managed well to enable freedom of movement for New Zealanders and that no one is mistakenly left behind (which had happened to tourists recently).

Thanks for giving us your time and sharing about this community. We will be back soon to connect on the work.

Download a full summary of the conversation with the Milford Sound community as a PDF file (864 KB)

Feedback from Milford residents

Meet the team – Jock Edmondson

Jock Edmondson recently joined the Milford Opportunities Team as a Visitor Experience Planner.

Through this work he is exploring what elements are needed to truly deliver a world class experience, including less and better infrastructure, how to connect more New Zealanders to this incredible place, and how to appropriately incorporate cultural elements into the experience.

Jock has been involved in the tourism industry and delivery of visitor experiences since 2000 when he completed a Degree in Parks and Recreation and Tourism at Lincoln University.  His most recent role as a Regional Visitor Planner in DOC focused on ways to manage visitors on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and climate change adaptation planning for South Westland Glacier Country.

He has spent time on the frontline of tourism, glacier guiding on the Franz Josef Glacier and in DOC operations across Aotearoa.  A move to Nelson in 2014 and time in the Nelson City Council led him into long-term recreation planning and asset management.  Before he completed his university studies, he was an electrician in his younger years.

Waka Kotahi Homer Tunnel safety project

We’re excited to see Waka Kotahi’s announcement regarding the Homer Tunnel $29 million safety project – avalanche and rockfall shelter construction starting November

It’s great to see the planned Ngāi Tahu artwork design for the tunnel entrance and how the agency is working to make people’s journey into Piopiotahi safer. Waka Kotahi is one of the founding members of the Milford Opportunities Project and we work closely to ensure our work in the area is aligned.

For more information including project updates, visit Homer Tunnel safety improvements | Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency (