New link road now mapped at 127km

GRANT BRYANT IN QUEENSTOWN
Last updated 05:00 22/01/2013

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The latest GPS technology has been used to gauge the length of the proposed Haast-Hollyford toll road, adding 19 kilometres to previous estimates.

Proposals for the road which would establish a West Coast-Fiordland link through the Arawhata River south of Haast were first floated in the 1860s, and were even mapped out in a photolithograph in 1884.

However, new GPS distance measuring by contractors working for the road's backers, Westland District Property Ltd, have put the exact distance of the road at 127km. Previous estimates put the distance at 108km.

Yesterday, Westland District Property Ltd chairman Durham Havill told The Southland Times a road formed in the 1970s and another, formed possibly as far back as the late 19th century, measured 30km and after upgrades would be incorporated into 97km of new road, including bridges, which would have to be built from scratch.

"This is the latest information we've received on the exact distance of the proposed road and has been carried out with the latest technology, so we're confident this new distance replaces previous estimates," Mr Havill said.

The latest version of the road would be built near the confluence of the Jackson and Arawhata rivers, traverse south and skirt Lakes Wilmot and Alabaster, and the eastern bank of the Hollyford River before intersecting with State Highway 94, near the Homer Tunnel on the Te Anau-Milford Sound route.

The toll road project has had $220 million pledged to its construction by a New Zealand firm, not an American company, as had been previously reported, Mr Havill said.

He declined to name the company at present because of a commercial confidentiality agreement.

If it goes ahead, the road will be built through Department of Conservation land in the Fiordland National Park and Te Waihipounamu World Heritage Area.

The project is planned to open up a new tourism route to Milford Sound, open up previously inaccessible land, and cleave up to five hours and 355km off the existing route from Haast to Milford Sound.

The current trip from Haast takes drivers through Wanaka, Queenstown and Te Anau on a 490km, 6.5-hour journey.

Company representatives would soon meet with the Southland District Council, Mr Havill said, and he was hopeful councillors would pass a resolution to allow the road to be built.

"There's no cost or risk to any of the Southland district ratepayers and I'm hoping the council will accept our proposal enthusiastically."

About 1500 construction and associated jobs could be created in Southland and Westland if the project gets the green light.

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- The Southland Times

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