Keep eyes open to benefits of road link

DAVID T HEALY
Last updated 10:23 27/12/2013

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OPINION: Roads to this area are a lifeline and this road will be a major step forward to capture the tourist market.

It's many many years since I first heard about the road link between the Hollyford Valley in Fiordland and Haast in South Westland.

The man who brought this to my attention was Murray Gunn who lived in the Hollyford at Gunns camp. I painted a sign for Murray who then placed it under his large directional sign in the middle of the camp.

The sign depicted the proposed route of the road and questioned why hasn't it been continued. Of course, Murray tried for many years to get the road under way again but he always found a bureaucrat with a thousand excuses why it couldn't be done.

Now it's Durham Havill's turn to have a crack at those who make life difficult for anyone with ambition.

The reason I am writing this is that I have been lucky enough to have lived and worked for many years in Fiordland on the roads that are a part of it.

Not only have I worked in those areas, I have also tramped from the Hollyford to Big Bay, spent many weeks at Martins Bay, worked as a guide on day walks on the Routeburn and Milford tracks, as well as the shorter walks in the park. I now live on the sunny side of the Alps in Hokitika.

There's a lonely grave alongside the Hollyford road. Donald Keith is buried there and he was just one of the early explorers who ventured into that area. Davy Gunn and the settlers at Martins Bay lived and worked to try to develop a future for their descendants. Hardship or bad luck defeated them but, further up the coast, people did survive to establish what we have today. The West Coasters are a legacy of the tough hardy settlers who for years lived in this remarkable place cut off from so-called civilisation by the Alps.

People here even now face hardships with mining disasters, forestry work being almost stopped and having to turn their hand to tourism as a means to live. Roads to this area are a lifeline and this road will be a major step forward to capture the tourist market. The West Coast is a mix of development and nature blended together to make beautiful landscapes wherever you may look.

The roads through the mountains that link the West to the east coast have now been there for so long they are a part of the landscape. The roads are accepted as a part of Fiordland, just like the trees, rivers and lakes. They are insignificant when you look at the sheer size of the country they wind their way through. The type of work I was involved in was maintaining the roads whether it be the Borland, Wilmot Pass, Milford or Hollyford roads. They are not a blot on the landscape, nor do they cause the trees to die or the wildlife to disappear. Some twit once said how it would allow predators such as stoats, rats and possums access to those wilderness areas but those animals have been established in the area from Hollyford to Haast for decades. Even the humble rabbit can be found hopping through that country.

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My work as a guide was with mostly overseas visitors and most would be impressed with the drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound. In fact, a lot would say how the road is more spectacular than Milford Sound. How much would this country lose in income if the road to Milford wasn't there?

The critics of this venture should open both eyes and live and work such as I have done before they cry down something that will not destroy the World Heritage area. The proposed road will be no more than a thin line on a map.

If you are lucky enough to visit the Hollyford Valley, get out of your car and walk 50 or so metres into the bush. You cannot see the road nor hear vehicles - it seems as though you are in a peaceful remote part of Fiordland.

Modern road construction methods won't leave scars, vegetation recovers amazingly in the bush and soon threatens to overgrow the roads.

The rabbit in my cartoons has both eyes open, he sees all. I hope the people responsible for the final decisions on the future of this also have both eyes open.

* Dave Healy is a Hokitika-based cartoonist.

- The Southland Times

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