Status of land for toll road unclear

The designation of the land on which the proposed Haast-Hollyford toll road is earmarked to be built remains a mystery.

The backers of the privately funded $220 million project, Westland District Property Ltd, say they "are pretty sure" the 127km swath of land reaching from the Arawhata River south to an intersection on the Te Anau-Milford highway was classified as roading reserve when the Department of Conservation was formed in 1987.

The land's classification would be a crucial point in deciding whether the proposed road would need a DOC concession to be built. Because of the size of the project, which was proposed as far back as the 1880s, public hearings would likely be triggered as part of the drawn out concession process.

However, a department senior communications adviser, Reuben Williams, said the question of whether the roading reserve is in place would have to wait until the project's backers entered "a formal process" with the department.

"I spoke with one of our managers and basically until a formal approach and proposal is made, it's unlikely we would investigate the land administration further, [and] I was advised that the road reserve status is a Linz issue," Mr Williams said.

But when The Southland Times approached Land Information New Zealand (Linz), the agency's general manager of policy and regulatory matters, Craig Armitage, said the matter was far from clear.

"While a route is shown on some historical maps and documents, whether there is a legal road reserve extending between the Cascade and Hollyford valleys is currently unclear," he said.

"The status of the historical route has been the subject of recent and ongoing discussions between representatives of Westland District Council and Land Information New Zealand."

Westland District Property is a subsidiary company wholly owned by Westland Holdings Ltd, a council-controlled organisation 100 per cent owned by the Westland District Council.

Mayor Maureen Pugh was confident the final classification of the land the road was proposed to be built on would be shown as a roading reserve.

"We firmly believe the road land will have legal status as a roading reserve, otherwise we wouldn't be pursuing it to the degree we have been. We have all the historic information here, because our council has been involved with developing this project for many years. It's really a matter of pulling all that information together with Linz or the surveyor-general to clarify that status."

The Southland Times