Local trust donates $735,000 to new Queenstown trail tunnel cost

Jul 01, 2024

Work is well underway for the new Shotover Gorge Trail that connects Arthurs Point to Frankton.  The new trail, that affords stunning views over the dramatic Shotover River forms the second stage of the trail expansion project that links the northern side of the Whakatipu Basin to the wider trail network.

The centrepiece of the new trail is the historic mining tunnel at Big Beach, which is being repurposed as a unique feature, through which the new trail will travel.

The Hugo Charitable Trust have made a donation of $735,000 to cover the restoration work for the tunnel.  In recognition of this generous contribution, the restored tunnel will be officially named the Hugo Tunnel.

Hugh Green’s eldest daughter Maryanne founded the Hugo Charitable Trust in 2017 to continue Mr Greens Philanthropic legacy and to give back to the people of New Zealand.  “The Hugo Charitable Trust is delighted to sponsor the upgrade of this tunnel in the memory of our benefactor, Hugh Green.”

The Hugo Tunnel has special significance because of Hugh Greens history in the civil construction industry: After emigrating to New Zealand from Ireland, Hugh Green and Barney McCahill formed Green & McCahill Ltd, which grew to become one of the best known civil construction companies in the country.  Green & McCahill Ltd completed some of New Zealand’s most significant civil construction projects including a long list of major tunnels.

“Hugh Green would have well understood the hard work and toil that went into building this tunnel. We have walked the trail to the tunnel entrances and we were very impressed with the stunning terrain and views. The new trail and tunnel will be a fantastic asset for the community, to be enjoyed by many locals and visitors to the region.” Mark Owens, Hugo Chair and Trustee.

The 108m long historic mining tunnel is located near the mouth of the lower Shotover Gorge.  The construction of the tunnel was planned during the goldrush of the late 1800s to divert the river and allow the river bed to be mined for gold, but it was not until 1962 when the Kawarau Diversion Syndicate finally constructed the tunnel with the intention to dam the Shotover River and generate the hydro-electric energy to power a dredge at Big Beach.

The tunnel was constructed using drill and blast techniques, the evidence of which are still visible in the tunnel walls today.  The project was abandoned as the tunnel was considered too small, and located at a level that was too high to accommodate the river.

Tunnel restoration works include stabilization of the tunnel portals, removal of rock-fall material, installation of rock bolts, structural anchors and mesh and construction of the new trail surface.   Archaeologists will be involved to identify and catalogue historic artifacts throughout the works.

CEO Mark ‘Willy” Williams says that Queenstown Trails is stoked to have the support of Hugo in funding of the tunnel restoration.  “The Hugo Tunnel is set to become a must-visit locations on the trail, it will be a unique experience to ride or walk through the tunnel, and gold mining history is an integral part of how our region has developed.”  Williams added that Hugh Green’s involvement in civil engineering created excellent synergy for the partnership “Being able to restore and repurpose this unique part of our heritage has been made possible thanks to the vision and the generosity of the Hugo Trust.”

Since 2017 the Hugo Charitable Trust has donated more than $16million to charitable causes around New Zealand, and its head office is based in Arrowtown.

Works on the Hugo Tunnel are underway, and Queenstown Trails is looking forward to sharing the restored tunnel and new Shotover Gorge Trail this coming summer.

Main image: Aoibheann Monaghan (CEO & Trustee, Hugo Charitable Trust), Mark ‘Willy’ Williams (CEO, Queenstown Trails), Maryanne Green (Founder, Hugo Charitable Trust) and Mark Owens (Chair & Trustee, Hugo Charitable Trust) visiting the newly christened Hugo Tunnel ahead of the restoration works. 

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