Councillors question Haast-Hollyford road plan

Southland District Mayor Frana Cardno and her councillors have had their first meeting with the developers of the proposed Haast-Hollyford road and more discussions are planned.

Mrs Cardno said yesterday she and her councillors had last week met with representatives from Westland District Property Ltd to view the group's plans.

The council did not make a decision on whether to support the road. With 50 per cent of the road in the Southland district, certain assurances needed to be met, she said.

"The key questions that need to be answered surround the long-term viability and ongoing maintenance of a road in a very high rainfall region," she said.

A guarantee Southland ratepayers would not be liable for costs was also needed, she said.

The council and Venture Southland would prepare their own report for the proposed road with further meetings with Westland District Property Ltd likely in the new year, the mayor said.

Westland District Property chairman Durham Havill was happy with his group's closed meeting with the district council.

"We came away with much more positive support than we expected after our plan was presented to mayor Frana Cardno and her councillors," he said.

The details of the meeting with the council could not be discussed but the property group was satisfied it had answered all the council's questions, Mr Havill said.

"The primary concern surrounded any financial backlash on Southland ratepayers. The simple answer to that is no."

Funding had been secured through an American company with experience in large-scale projects, Mr Havill said.

"The Haast-Hollyford road would be small for them but they have emphasised a desire to have a presence in New Zealand."

The property group also met with major Southland businesses, which Mr Havill declined to name, during its time in Invercargill before a further meeting with about 60 people in Te Anau, he said.

"We were amazed by the enthusiasm we received in Te Anau."

Te Anau would become an overnight stop for people using the proposed $20 per head toll road, he said.

But Te Anau-based Distinction Hotels owner Geoffrey Thompson said the Haast-Hollyford road would not bring the benefits the developers were talking up.

"This proposal is hugely off the mark," he said.

"The road will only have the potential to speed up tourism and would require very high ongoing maintenance costs," he said.

The number of tourists passing through the West Coast also did not justify carving up more of New Zealand's natural wilderness, Mr Thompson said. He said a park-and-ride system based in Te Anau would provide the best visitor experience.

The Southland Times