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Proposed night travel only on road to Milford Sound frustrates locals

Mar 05, 2020

The road to Milford Sound could soon be reopened to the public - but only at night.

Locals say a Transport Agency proposal is a step forward but many are frustrated that while they'll be limited to night-time travel, tourist buses will be able to drive through in the day time.

The agency outlined its proposal at a public meeting in Te Anau last night.

The road to Milford Sound has been out of action to all but essential services and tour buses since devastating flooding and slips in early February.

The Transport Agency hopes to reopen the road to the public from March the 16th, but only between 5pm till 7am.

The only day time travel will be for passengers on tourist buses, which will be on the road in hourly convoys between eight in the morning and four in the afternoon.

The proposal includes plans to have hourly convoys between 8am and 4pm and shortening the convoy distance to a 15-minute drive.

The road would be completely open to the public bar the 6km stretch for convoys from East Gate to just shy of Homer Tunnel.

That's down from a 35km closed stretch.

The only day time travel will be for passengers on tourist buses.

Fiordland Recreation and Conservation Trust's Ian Carrick said locals should get daytime access too.

"I guess the tourism side of things is pushed so hard that maybe they forget that there's individuals out there that want to go into those areas and it's restricting their access and it's our country," he said.

"We live here. Tourists are really just guests of our country and that's the way they should be looked after as guests. But we seem to think that they're more important than anyone. Just individuals, New Zealanders should have a fair say."

Crews have been working hard to repair the road, but the Transport Agency said a full recovery might be up to 15 months away and it will cost millions.

About 2000 truck loads of debris have already been cleared from the road.

Repairs are carried out by the Milford Road Alliance, a partnership between the agency and Downer NZ.

Alliance manager Kevin Thompson said there were big challenges, like replacing the giant gabion walls made of rocks held in place by metal grids.

"The key priorities are getting information for our designs for those gabion walls and bridge replacements," he said.

"Those individually are the half million to $1.3 million each, and they take time to construct and also to design and obtain consents for."

Crews are using a three day good weather window to seal the roads.

Te Anau resident Ray Willett said the road workers deserved congratulations for what they've been able to achieve since the road was damaged, and locals needed to show patience.

"A questionnaire came round and I put 'how did you get that road open so quickly for convoys and buses? Amazing!' And that was my question," he said.

"It was incredible to think that we were able to get our visitors through again, and if anybody's complaining about it, they're not being realistic."

The Transport Agency is expected to decide on whether to go ahead with its proposal for limited road access early next week.

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