Milford Sound Piopiotahi community updates

We visited the community in Piopiotahi in April and May this year to see how the summer had gone and reflect back what we had heard during this phase of the project.

What we’ve heard

The community values its tight-knit village atmosphere and sense of belonging. Residents appreciate and support the need to address complex, deep-seated challenges in Piopiotahi, but are concerned about any impacts on their way of life and the place itself resulting from this work.

“The big worry for me is that this place is my home. I don’t want to lose my home…the place where I live and also the things I go and do.”

Changes to staff accommodation is an important issue for residents: 

  • Residents oppose a large staff accommodation block, emphasising its infeasibility.
  • Separation between tourist accommodation and residential areas is crucial.

“We just want to have our own places. We don’t want to be near the customers, we’ve spent the day with them.”

  • Workers prefer bespoke staff accommodation options that suit the range of workers’ preferences and life stages.
  • Natural hazard risks are high for those living in the village and generally understood and accepted, given the unique environment.
  • Social facilities, including multi-use communal spaces, are desired for residents.

While residents see a need for some improvements to infrastructure and facilities in Piopiotahi, it’s important to maintain the natural essence of the place:

“This is the jewel in the crown of NZ Tourism – the whole place needs a birthday!”

  • Workers are often drawn to their jobs through the appeal of living amongst Piopiotahi’s wild natural beauty.
  • Residents want conservation efforts to be prioritised over unnecessary construction and new structures.
  • Residents do not support the gondola/cable car proposal

“A gondola is not viable. If you get people up there then you’ve got to have someone looking after them. It’s hazardous up there.“

Some wider activities including wet weather options would improve the visitor experience.

“You are in one of the wettest places in the world but [there’s]…nowhere out of the rain…You’ve got elderly, you’ve got families.”

Residents agree with encouraging more visitors to use buses and guided tours. They want to maintain a diversity of visitors and are opposed to creating an experience only for the elite.

“I first came to Milford as a customer… Part of the charm of the place is that it has a variety of people coming here.”

Managed access options need to maintain freedom of access and flexibility for Milford Sound residents.

“Our work hours, they’re always changing, so you really need flexibility to be able to access the outdoors. We need a flexible system.”

Residents want to continue to have their voices heard in decisions affecting Piopiotahi.

Read a full summary of feedback from the Piopiotahi community: