Updates from Milford Opportunities Board Chair Jenn Bestwick

Community thank you

On Saturday 15 June we held a small event in Te Anau to mark the end of this phase of the Milford Opportunities project.

Jenn Bestwick, Milford Opportunities Board Chair

Thanks to everyone who braved the cold to attend this event. In particular Nathan Benfell (Fiordland Business Association), Roz Hawkes-Hermann (Visit Fiordland) and Rosco Gaudin (Milford Sound Kayaks) for sharing their thoughts on how things have gone, and hopes for the future.

The event was an opportunity for us to show our gratitude for the generosity many of you have shown in providing your time and expertise to lift and inform this important work. To ensure it embodies, as far as it possibly can, community aspirations for the area.

All of us working on the Milford Opportunities Project feel a huge privilege and awe at playing a part in the future of incredible Milford Sound Piopiotahi and wider Fiordland.

We have also felt a great privilege and responsibility to be doing this alongside the communities who call this place home.

A world class experience is delivered by a community of providers – agencies, locals, mana whenua, operators, conservationists – ensuring that collectively, we deliver to a world-class standard.

The Milford corridor is comprised of an ecosystem of operators, offering an extensive range of visitor experiences, each with intrinsic knowledge of the customer base they serve.

Engaging with all of you as the subject matter experts has been a key priority throughout this phase of the project.

Championed by Chris and lead by Phil Tisch, the team has completed roughly 700 engagements over this time. We have also had a local champion in John Twidle.

John Twidle, Milford Opportunities Heritage & Ngāi Tahu Partnership Lead. Chris Goddard, Milford Opportunities Programme Director


Left to right: Rosco Gaudin, Milford Sound Kayaks, Roz Hawkes-Hermann, Visit Fiordland Tourism and Communication Executive, Nathan Benfell, Fiordland Business Association Chair

The team reports back that no matter what people’s views were on the project, every engagement was informative, respectful, generous and genuine. What a reflection on this community and the businesses that operate here, and on your commitment to caring for Fiordland!

I wanted to reflect on what we’re heard from you over the last 18 months.

There is consensus that Piopiotahi is a taonga – a treasure, and that some change is needed to protect the place, its communities, and the visitor experience.

We’ve heard that these conversations have been taking place in some form for several decades and this has caused some frustration.

Most of those spoken to are excited by the prospect of improvements, and that the project will finally get the cut through needed to bring positive change for Piopiotahi.

While priorities differ for different stakeholders and groups, there is consistent support for the following:

  • making the journey safer and less congested
  • increasing investment in safeguarding and up-lifting Piopiotahi to reflect the importance of this national taonga, and
  • making it easier to run a successful business in Piopiotahi by reducing red tape and complexity.

We have heard that you would like to see greater cultural storytelling along the journey, and that carefully planned wet weather opportunities in or nearby to Te Anau would benefit the town.

We know that Te Anau is incredibly special – the community looks after each other, kids can safely bike to school, visitors are immersed in clean air, a warm welcome and tranquillity and they are telling their friends about it – the secret’s out!

We’ve also heard that, while Te Anau should receive acknowledgement as the gateway to Milford Sound and Fiordland, and some gradual growth in tourism is appropriate, ensuring the Te Anau’s peaceful character is maintained.

We have heard from Milford Sound locals that your community is special and has its own voice. While more investment in infrastructure is needed – we must protect the natural essence of this place.

We’ve heard that the challenges we are seeking to address are complex – and after years of work – we are with you on that!

It has not been an easy road and there is no silver bullet.

Preparing for the future requires a step change that would be novel for New Zealand, challenging how existing regulatory systems are set up. 

That change is not simple or easy.

Once we have delivered a business case, depending on ministerial decisions, any implementation will rely on innovative and dedicated people working together to lead this place through long-term transformation. It will be a 10-year and upwards programme of work to embed a new way of operating.

Much of this change, such as a greater focus on Te Anau as the main visitor hub, must take place over the longer-term and be led by the community.

Whatever lies ahead, on behalf of the whole project team I’d like to say thank you for the vital part you’ve played on this journey so far.