The Milford Opportunities Project is a collaboration between Ngāi Tahu, the Department of Conservation, Southland District Council, the Ministry of Transport, Waka Kotahi, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and Environment Southland.
The Milford Opportunities Project is comprised of a Unit, a Board and a Ministerial Oversight Group which includes the Ministers of Conservation and Tourism, and the Associate Transport Minister.
Find out about the members of our Board, the Programme Director and who leads the project's workstreams below.
Milford Opportunities Unit
Milford Opportunities Programme Director
I started my working career at Tiwai Aluminium Smelter and spent nearly every weekend exploring Fiordland. Even after my career took me and my family overseas, we returned often to reconnect to the place.
After a 30-year career in mining and project management, you get a real understanding of what is needed to keep society going. Places such as Piopiotahi are absolutely precious and will become more so over time.
Visitors leaving the place better than they found it, upholding the natural and cultural values of a place, decarbonising the journey all together – we have a real opportunity to transform how we manage tourism in New Zealand.
If you are lucky, you may get one chance in a career to work on something that leaves a positive enduring legacy. This is my chance to do that and to give something back to a place that I love.
Policy & Legislation Lead
We have a real opportunity to rethink how we can better care for one of Aotearoa’s most stunning places in the context of a more regenerative tourism model. This project is as much as an opportunity for the place as it is for the country as a whole.
While I have a legal background (LLM), I am a true policy wonk having worked on government policy for most of my career (including at the Ministry of Economic Development, MBIE, NZTE, as well as a contractor for public service agencies).
The Policy and Legislation workstream is responsible for identifying and testing the policy and legislative implications of the masterplan proposals. Key areas of focus relate to managed road access, charging international visitors, a new management and governance model, and how commercial activities are managed.
Heritage & Ngāi Tahu Partnership Lead
Born in Havelock in the Marlborough Sounds, I trained as a sparky at Woodbourne Airforce Base. I’ve been steadily making my way further and further south ever since, until, about 20 years ago, I found myself living in Te Anau and working at Manapouri Power Station.
I left the Station in 2016 and worked as a Partnerships Manager for the Department of Conservation before joining the Milford Opportunities Team full time in 2022 as the Heritage & Ngāi Tahu Partnership Lead.
I’m so humbled to have been entrusted with this task. The work isn’t about a thing - it’s about ensuring that the place is respected, valued and protected. The concept that the place should have a voice too is very powerful. Recognising our past and our people and bringing the right values through into our thinking for the future is the real value that this work contributes towards the overall task of testing the feasibility of the conceptual Masterplan.
Transport & Infrastructure Lead
Southland is a great place to live and to visit with a stunningly diverse range of landscapes from Fiordland, across northern Southland and the plains, to Rakiura and the Catlins. The project's focus on benefitting the place and our communities as well as visitors is something that is really important to me.
In leading the Transport & Infrastructure feasibility testing phase of the Milford Opportunities Project, we are considering things such as - whether the concepts are physically constructable, technically operable, their likely cost, their wider impacts and whether they are an activity that works within a commercial model.
Tourism & Commercial Lead
The special nature of Piopiotahi the place, its stories and its people are important to me.
I am an experienced governance professional, director and senior executive in the tourism, sustainable design, commercial development, and high-performance sport sectors. It’s fantastic to be in a position to draw on these skills as the project’s Tourism & Commercial Lead.
My workstream will test the Milford Opportunities Masterplan’s recommendations as they relate to the document’s intent to achieve “a moving and World Class Visitor Experience that weaves in Mana Whenua values and conservation values while returning funds for conservation growth and community prosperity”.
Engagement & Communications Lead
I first visited Milford Sound Piopiotahi as a teenager with my parents on our way to tramp the Hollyford Track. I remember sitting at the airfield and being disappointed by the morning fog, not appreciating that when it cleared, the most amazing sight would be revealed…and then that’s exactly what happened! Rahotu Mitre Peak, bathed in the morning sunlight, mist swirling around its base – so much more dramatic than I had ever expected!
I’ve worked in South Westland and Fiordland National Parks for the bulk of my career – mostly on species recovery programmes. More recently I supported the setup of a number of landscape restoration projects including Te Manahuna Aoraki in the McKenzie Basin and Predator Free Rakiura looking at how to rid the island of feral cats, possums, rats and hedgehogs.
As Lead for Engagement & Communications, I work with a dedicated team to ensure community members, stakeholders and visitors get an opportunity to contribute to the feasibility testing stage of this project. The Masterplan sets out a range of ideas for managing tourism in a radically different way to the current state and this engagement is crucial.
Coming from a health and wellness background I have a love for nature, people and our environment so I relished the opportunity to work on this once in a lifetime project.
I feel privileged to be doing a job I really enjoy and that has such mana and an amazing sense of purpose for all of New Zealand. I feel it is our duty to ensure this treasured landscape is protected, cared for and enjoyed by all. Piopiotahi really is the 8th wonder of the world.
As the Board and Project Secretariat for Milford Opportunities, it’s my job is to support the Chairperson, Board, Project Director and unit so they can make key decisions and recommendations for Ministers.
Milford Opportunities Board
Jenn Bestwick Board Chair
Queenstown based Director
I relish the opportunity to steer Milford Opportunities through the vital coming months for the project. I’m passionate about New Zealand, particularly Te Wai Pounamu/the South Island which is my home. Having spent many happy times tramping, kayaking and generally enjoying our unique biodiversity and outdoors, I’m passionate about ensuring this legacy is preserved and that our connection to place, biodiversity and our amazing landscapes, remains central to our tourism reputation.
Piopiotahi is a global attraction. It’s vital we deliver viable options that will benefit this incredible place and those connected to it.
I bring to the role extensive leadership and governance experience as the independent Chair of Tonkin + Taylor, Chair of the Tertiary Education Commission and an Antarctica New Zealand Board member. Past roles include independent Director of Invercargill City Holdings Ltd, and Tourism New Zealand Board member.
Ngāi Tahu, Riverton, Aparima
As mana whenua we are obligated and desire to protect this great treasure now and into the future. It isn’t to lock others out but to work together to ensure it remains the most magnificent place it is to visit – its stories shared and told for mana whenua.
I have more than 30 years’ experience in environmental issues and Te Tiriti O Waitangi promotion through being a Ngāi Tahu board member and managing Te Ao Mārama. I believe Milford Opportunities is a great opportunity to focus on environmental, conservation and cultural issues while still enhancing the visitor experience of Piopiotahi. I have been part of the working group on the project since stage one and believe it is a true partnership between mana whenua and the government departments, local government and business.
When Māori arrived in Aotearoa, it was a whole new world and they had to adapt to the new environment. They learnt lessons and are keen to share their knowledge so the mistakes do not continue to be made. I want to add value to the project – our role as tangata whenua in the project should help as we want the same thing.
Company Director, Wanaka
I have a long-term love of Fiordland. For most of our visitors, Milford Sound Piopiotahi is all that they see of Fiordland. We need to make sure that those visitors have an experience that recognises Piopiotahi’s place on this planet while also respecting its history.
I hope to bring to the governance group table specific abilities around marine and aviation along with 40 years of corporate experience.
Chief Executive Officer at Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu
Mō tātou, ā, mō kā uri ā muri ake nei - For us and our children after us
Having held an extensive number of governance roles I am able to bring a strategic and principled focus to the governance table, with an ability to consider and deliver economic, social, environmental, and culturally responsible outcomes. Currently a director on a range of complex entities including Chairing Kāpuia, Ministerial Advisory Committee RCOI Terrorist Attack on Christchurch Mosques, I understand and value diverse perspectives and views at the table, and work to bring peoples perspectives into purpose and action.
My leadership journey is a credit to my support system and the lessons I have been taught by whānau and mentors.
Independent tourism thought leader
I have a long-held passion for protecting Aotearoa’s National Parks. I am committed to supporting and advocating for the most appropriate best practice for minimal impacts in Aotearoa’s special places.
With over forty-five years of treading gently when walking, climbing, adventuring and visiting Fiordland and Milford Sound Piopiotahi I look forward to making a contribution as the Milford Opportunities Board assesses the feasibility of the proposed Milford Opportunities Masterplan recommendations.
Milford Sound Piopiotahi is an iconic environment, on a national as well as an international level, and it’s a privilege to be part of the Governance Group leading the way in its protection and promotion. I also firmly believe that the architecture profession has a significant role to play in leadership on issues related to place. Being part of the Governance Group for stage three allows me to walk this talk. My architectural practice is built around responding to our unique Aotearoa / New Zealand environment and I look forward to tapping into this as part of my role.
Fiordland Te Rua o te Moko holds a special place for many of us. I am very pleased that protecting this unique landscape for current and future generations will form an important part of the next stage of the Milford Opportunities project. As the marine and coastal regulator for Murihiku Southland, Environment Southland Te Taiao Tonga has a vital role to play in supporting the project Board as it progresses its thinking about infrastructure design for Milford Sound Piopiotahi; ensuring key environmental, human health and safety values are front of mind.
Chief Executive, Southland District Council
Milford Opportunities is one of those projects which has the chance to change how we manage our stories, our places and our wairua (spirit). Piopiotahi is a special place for all New Zealanders and we, through Milford Opportunities, have the chance to enhance the manmade elements, protect the conservation values and address the kaitiakitanga that has been missed for so long.
I am excited to be part of this opportunity and am committed to providing localism and community, as well as an understanding of the regulatory environment, to the decision-making processes.
Department of Conservation Heritage & Visitors Director
My work at DOC focuses on connecting people to nature and New Zealand’s cultural heritage in a way that is sustainable and regenerative. This includes how we care for Papatūānuku, fostering recreation in nature, and sharing stories of our cultural heritage in support of communities. I have worked for both private and public sector organisations on climate change, biosecurity, sustainable business and conservation.
The Milford Opportunities Project is exploring how to protect and restore Piopiotahi to ensure an outstanding visitor experience. DOC has a strong interest in understanding what’s possible when it comes to innovative approaches to overcome tourism pressures and how we can honour the area’s significant natural and cultural heritage.
General Manager, Tourism, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment
I previously worked in a range of senior roles in both the public and private sectors, including the UK and New Zealand Treasuries.
For MBIE, the Milford Opportunities Project provides a test case for developing solutions to address challenges inherent in tourism in New Zealand, including those in other high-pressure areas.
While Milford Sound Piopiotahi is a key visitor icon, it’s important to provide an accessible world-class visitor experience, while upholding its World Heritage status, national park and conservation values.