New push to reopen Bowen Falls track

HANNAH MCLEOD
Last updated 05:00 13/03/2014
Bowen Falls
Jill McKee
BOWEN FALLS: The track has been closed for more than 10 years because of the risk of rock falls and tree slips.

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Community groups are working towards reopening the walkway to one of Fiordland's most spectacular waterfalls.

Milford Sound Development Authority manager Andrew Welsh said the authority had been working with the Department of Conservation to review the status of the track, which has been closed for more than 10 years because of the risk of rock falls and tree slips.

"We are looking at what it would take to bring the track back into operation," he said.

It was not yet known how much it would cost to upgrade the track and make it safe.

DOC and the authority have jointly funded an engineering report into the track, Mr Welsh said.

The URS Corporation would provide them with a risk management plan, which would identify any remedial works needed to reopen the track.

DOC and the authority had each contributed $4500 to fund the report.

Milford Community Trust chairman Mike Schuck said the trust wanted the track reopened.

"Tourism operators and the community at large supports it," he said.

"The trust is looking at fundraising and facilitating the upgrade."

Mr Schuck said he understood DOC planned to apply to the Government for about half of the funding needed, but he did not know how much that was.

It was likely most of the funding for the upgrade would need to come from DOC and the Milford Sound Development Authority, because the trust had a very small income, with few ratepayers in the Milford area.

"We will have to do external fundraising . . . but the trust could come up with the balance." he said.

He guessed the cost could be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Department of Conservation Fiordland district conservation partnerships manager Jessie Haanen confirmed DOC had been in discussions with the Authority and Milford Community Trust, but refused to be drawn on potential future involvement.

"We will have a look at the report," she said.

In 2011, DOC Southland conservator Barry Hanson said repairs could cost about $800,000.

Last year, a Chilean man slipped and fell to his death when taking photographs from the top of the Bowen Falls.

At the time, a DOC spokeswoman said it was possible he had followed an old hydro pipe leading to the falls because the track was closed. 

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