A masterplan for Piopiotahi

The Milford Opportunities Project was established in 2017 to create an ambitious and innovative masterplan for Milford Sound Piopiotahi, the Milford corridor and the region surrounding it. The plan will make recommendations that will ensure:

Milford Sound Piopiotahi maintains its status as a key New Zealand visitor icon and provides a world-class visitor experience that is accessible, upholds the World Heritage status, national park and conservation values and adds value to Southland and New Zealand Inc.

The masterplan will be focused on what needs to be done to offer a unique and authentic experience. As part of this, engagement with stakeholders and the public is essential and we want feedback and thoughts from every point of view.

The masterplan could recommend significant changes to the area, however, it will not be a statutory document and the final decision on any changes rest with Government.

How we began

The project came out of discussions between Southland District Council and the Department of Conservation about the issues around congestion at particular times in Milford Sound Piopiotahi and on the Milford Road.

Milford Sound Piopiotahi is one of New Zealand’s most popular visitor attractions and iconic destinations in the world. A record 946,000 visitors went to Milford Sound Piopiotahi in 2018, with tourism growth forecast to continue, reaching 1.2 million by 2023 and 2 million by 2035. It is located in part of New Zealand’s largest National Park (Fiordland) and holds UNESCO World Heritage status.

The current Milford Road corridor and Milford Sound Piopiotahi itself are under stress. This requires new thinking to safeguard the core character and values, World Heritage status, conservation values and the visitor experience.

The project was included in the Southland Regional Development Strategy and in 2017 a governance group was created to look at how the future of Milford Sound Piopiotahi, the road, the Te Anau basin and the wider region should be developed and managed.

Members include representatives from iwi, Southland District Council, Queenstown Lakes District Council, Department of Conservation, New Zealand Transport Agency, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and two tourism business operators. The governance group is led by independent chair Dr Keith Turner. For more information on the governance group click here.

Stage 1

The Milford Opportunities project will be delivered through a three-stage process.

Stage one was to establish context, vision and objectives and was completed in September 2018. Key to this stage was the development of the project’s working vision and pillars. 

Piopiotahi – New Zealand as it was, forever


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Mana Whenua values woven through

Iwi place in the landscape and guardianship of mātauranga Māori me te taiao (Māori knowledge and the environment) are recognised. Authentic mana whenua stories inform and contribute to a unique visitor experience

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A moving experience

Visitors experience the true essence, beauty and wonder of Milford Sound Piopiotahi and Murihiku/Southland through curated story-telling, sympathetic infrastructure and wide choices suited to a multi-day experience


Tourism funds conservation and community

The visitor experience will become an engine for funding conservation growth and community prosperity

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Effective visitor management

Visitors are offered a world class visitor experience that fits with the unique natural environment and rich cultural values of the region


Resilient to change and risk

Activities and infrastructure are adaptive and resilient to change and risk, for instance avalanche and flood risks, changing visitor trends, demographics and other external drivers

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Manage Fiordland National Park to ensure ongoing protection of pristine conservation areas, while enabling restoration of natural ecological values in other areas

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Harness innovation and technology

Leading technology and innovation is employed to ensure a world class visitor experience now and into the future

Stage 2

Stage two will define and choose options to be included in the masterplan, and ensure these options/recommendations are backed up by data and research. Stage two will be completed when the masterplan is made public in mid 2021.

There will be public and stakeholder engagement during 2020 as we work out what are the best solutions based on that feedback. More on how you can be involved can be found here

Stage 3

Stage three will be the adoption and implementation of the masterplan by Government.