Hollyford road back before Govt

A long-mooted proposal for a road through pristine forest between Haast and the Hollyford Valley is again being considered by the Government.

Economic Development Minister Gerry Brownlee confirmed the project was "under consideration" and has asked for more analysis after raising the subject with Cabinet colleagues.

Mr Brownlee attended a meeting in October with the Westland District Council, Southland District Council and Scenic Hotel Group owner Earl Hagaman.

The millionaire businessman is a vocal supporter of the route and commissioned an engineering report to investigate the state of existing roads and what additional work would need to be done.

The Westland District Council is also a supporter of the route.

In a letter to Local Government New Zealand Zone 6 chairman Peter McPherson in August, Mayor Maureen Pugh says the council has committed $100,000 of funding towards upgrading the existing road from Haast south to the Cascade River.

Given the Government and Prime Minister's view on access to conservation land, there was never a better opportunity to gain political support, she says.

However, Southland District Council chief executive David Adamson said a drop in funding from the New Zealand Transport Agency for Southland roads meant there was no extra money to spend on the Haast/Hollyford route.

If a proposal to fund the route from a different source emerged, council would then have to decide where it stood on the idea, he said.

Mr Hagaman said building the road would create the eighth wonder of the world and any damage to the environment was being exaggerated by certain parties, he said. "There's a few people that think it's an invasion, but what they don't realise is that it hardly touches any of the so-called reserve areas and national parks and that sort of thing."

There was always controversy when a new road was built, Mr Hagaman said.

The Southland Times