Haast-Hollyford road revived

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 15/11/2012
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The long-discussed Haast-to-Hollyford road is back on the agenda after a Westland company says it has secured funding for the project.

Westland District Property Ltd, controlled by Westland District Council, said it had found funding for the $220 million project and was drafting resource consent applications.

Westland District Property chairman Durham Havill said the road link from Haast to Hollyford had been mooted since the 1860s but with foreign funding it was now a serious option, and would not cost Southland or Westland ratepayers a cent, he said yesterday.

The company had signed a memorandum of understanding with the foreign investors, conditional on design, build, finance and maintenance partners, he said.

"We believe this is the last new road that needs to be built in New Zealand."

The toll road would create a loop that would draw new visitors to Westland and Southland and entice those people who had been to the region before to return, Mr Havill said.

Developers had met Prime Minister John Key and Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee, with discussions "encouraging", he said.

"The next step would be to meet with the Southland District Council, and southern MPs Eric Roy and Bill English."

The support of the Government and the Southland District Council was vital, Mr Havill said.

It would be naive to think there would not be opposition to the proposal from environmentalists. But that was something to be expected.

"It's only a 78-kilometre road that has to be built with upgrades to existing roads and both Southland, and the Westland would benefit."

Mr Roy, the Invercargill MP, said the Haast-to-Hollyford road always needed to be explored.

"Former West Coast-Tasman MP Chris Auchinvole and I have been working diligently for many years to get to a point where the proposal is a serious consideration," he said.

"We are continuing to work hard with salient MPs to make them understand the potential for the road."

Mr Roy said the road would provide several benefits, including allowing visitors to explore that part of the country, cutting fossil fuel use by reducing driving distance, and providing a commercial transport route from Southland to the West Coast.

In July, the Milford Transport Options Review 2012 was commissioned, a project conducted jointly between Venture Southland and Environment Southland.

The review would bring the transport options in Fiordland into a sharper focus than its predecessor, which was done in 2005.

Venture Southland enterprise and strategic projects Steve Canny said results of the review would still be important.

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All options still needed to be investigated, including the Haast-to-Hollyford road.

"The Hollyford and Haast link has been discussed before but as far as I am aware this is the first time a fully funded proposal has been tabled."

However, Mr Canny said several challenges needed to be met before the road became a reality.

Southland District Mayor Frana Cardno was unavailable for comment.

- The Southland Times

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