OPINION: It was a stupid notion, mercifully euthanised.
Just what possessed Destination Fiordland to call for the closure of Sandy Brown Rd - a route by which motorists could bypass Te Anau - remains a cause for discomfort, so dullardly and defensive was the thinking behind it.
Destination Fiordland determined the road was having a negative impact on the town, particularly since many tourists had a navigator in their campervans that took them down the road as the shortest route to Milford.
But that's no reason for a de facto blockade.
Blocking off escape routes like this was a Stone Age hunting technique.
Surely promoting a town is not, at heart, a mustering problem.
The idea had proven controversial in the town itself, where some felt that business-owning board members had taken control of Destination Fiordland and had it acting in seriously blinkered fashion.
It came as scant surprise when the idea was nixed by a meeting of the Southland District Council, Te Anau Community Board, and the Destination Fiordland board, on Wednesday.
It was an indication of the depth of Destination Fiordland's thinking lately that it wanly insisted that this was not a closed-door meeting - it was just that the public had been excluded.
If the distinction is unclear, that comment does at least underscore that this is certainly an outfit that has an emphatic sense of where people should, and should not, be permitted to go, thank you very much.
Part - but only part - of the wrongheadedness evident here was that closing the road was neither legally nor practically viable.
Quite apart from wilful tourists, it served the town's industrial area, residential subdivisions and an approved commercial development, and it helped keep heavy traffic out of the resort.
The townsfolk are entitled to be feeling just a bit spooked by the realisation that Destination Fiordland is capable of getting quite so bewildered about what is, and is not, achievable.
But more significant, surely, was the promotional body's failure to acknowledge that Te Anau shouldn't be pushing or shoving travellers.
It needs to exert a gravitational pull of its own.
A lot more self-belief would be a good start in that respect. Te Anau has a beautiful lake, fantastic scenery, a well-laid-out town, decent accommodation and a fair roster of hard-case locals.
As a community it needs to stop glaring quite so enviously at Queenstown and start looking at its own initiatives. More vigorously and inventively championing a Haast-Coast road would certainly be one.
At least now, improved signage will be used to ensure visitors to Te Anau know where the town centre is.
Now there just needs to be a bit more work done further on up the road, so they might be aware of why that's a good place to head.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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