Skippers road cut off at the elbow
Tourism operators and residents in Skippers Canyon are using helicopters to access the historic area after a large chunk of road plummeted about 80m into the Shotover River overnight on Tuesday.
The slip, reported to the Queenstown Lakes District Council by tourism operator Skippers Canyon Jet yesterday morning, left the road impassable.
Council transport manager Denis Mander said about 80 per cent of a five-metre long section of road, known as Devil's Elbow, had fallen away, preventing motor vehicle access. Devil's Elbow is located about 18km along the Skippers road from Coronet Peak Rd.
It was not yet known how long it would take to repair the section of road but council staff hoped to have a good idea after a second meeting with the roading engineer, who inspected the slip yesterday, this morning, Mr Mander said.
"We're very mindful of the impact on residents and tourist operators. But clearly it won't be fixed overnight.
The slip was "probably related" to this week's heavy rain, he said.
Tourism operators affected by the slip include Skippers Canyon Jet, Queenstown Rafting, Nomad Safaris and Queenstown Heritage Tours.
Skippers Canyon Jet owner Winky Hohneck, who also lives in the canyon, said the section of road had been deteriorating for some time and drivers had been keeping a close eye on it this week.
Although they had vehicles on either side of the slip the company suspended operations yesterday as it was not safe to have customers walking across the remaining 50cm of road.
They planned to resume operations this morning using helicopters to transport customers into the canyon at an additional cost of $75.
Nomad Safaris owner David Gatward-Ferguson said they were waiting on the engineer's report before deciding whether to arrange alternative transport to get customers in to the historic Skippers township.
Slips were not uncommon on the historic road, but yesterday's was significant, he said.
A Queenstown Heritage Tours spokesperson said they would continue operating but trips would stop short of the slip until the road was repaired.
Queenstown Rafting general manager Tim Barke said the company had reverted to travelling to the top of the river by helicopter.
"On the positive side, it's created a new rapid which could get a little bigger," he said.
Mr Mander said the road remained open. Contractors had built a large bund on the Queenstown side of the slip and erected signage to ensure safety.
Given the historic nature of the road the council would notify and consult with both the New Zealand Historic Places Trust and New Zealand Transport Agency.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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