Open canal road - ex-project boss

MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD
Last updated 05:00 02/07/2013

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A key player in the Upper Waitaki hydro projects wants the Tekapo-Pukaki canal road reopened.

State-owned generator Genesis has closed the road from State Highway 8 to Lake Pukaki since early January while the canal is repaired, and it is expected to stay closed until at least the completion of work next year.

However, Max Smith, who was the Ministry of Works project engineer for the Upper Waitaki hydro scheme in the 1970s and 1980s, said he did not think there should be any safety issues.

"The road was formed primarily as an access between the canals," he told the Herald. "This kept the machinery off the main roads and was necessary for all the construction aspects."

During the construction period, Mr Smith realised the canal roads would provide an alternative scenic route and would allow the public to be able to view the dams.

"I don't see any reason for them to be closed. They're no more dangerous than any other road."

Yesterday, Genesis referred the Herald to its previous statement that it would "discuss the future operation of the road with the local community over the coming months as the works continue and our assessments completed".

The road had been open to the public since it was formed in the 1970s as part of the hydro project.

In 2011, the Government ordered Genesis to buy the Tekapo power stations from rival state-owned generator Meridian for $800 million.

Some residents fear the road will remain closed after Genesis completes its repair works.

Mackenzie Mayor Claire Barlow has previously said council staff had made it clear to Genesis that it wanted the road reopened as soon as the repair work was finished.

Tekapo Community Board chairman Murray Cox said residents wanted the road reopened as soon as possible because it was a key route for tourists, particularly recreational anglers and holidaymakers.

He had spoken to Genesis representatives last month.

"Everyone has been more concerned about getting the snow off the roads over the last fortnight," Mr Cox said.

"I'm sure there would be another opportunity to talk to Genesis soon."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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