MILFORD Sound will receive $13 million for two projects as part of the $12 billion New Zealand Upgrade Programme announced by the Government last month.
$300 million was allocated for capital projects in regional New Zealand, and the Fiordland projects were announced last week as part of the first package.
The first project, set to receive $10 million, was an investment in an existing connectivity project which was announced last June.
Regional Economic Development minister Shane Jones said the recent extreme weather in the region highlighted the fragility of the infrastructure in Milford Sound and the need for increased resilience.
“Improved digital connectivity will allow Fiordland to keep pace with other regions to develop business, employment and tourism opportunities. It allows people to work outside urban centres, gain sustainable employment and ensure talent can stay in the regions.
“Reliability of telecommunications in the region, and public safety for those travelling to Milford Sound tourist destinations is another factor in the investment.”
The second project of $3 million was an upgrade to the Milford Aerodrome which would reseal the runway, apron and taxiway and provide improved drainage at the aerodrome. The Ministry of Transport had advised this be done within three years to keep the aerodrome operational.
Fiordland Community Board chairwoman Sarah Greaney said it was really positive news for the region, particularly as it did not have to be funded by ratepayers.
“Good infrastructure provides a sound basis from which we can continue to grow our economy. Improving connectivity was one of the key strategic outcomes that the Fiordland Community board had on its community futures plan… access to reliable services is critical for most business operations.”
Destination Fiordland manager Madeleine Peacock said the funding was welcome after “a long-running campaign to improve communication and air connectivity including the Milford Aerodrome facilities”.
She said while Milford Sound was considered a “world-class” destination, the facilities and how the place had been managed had fallen short of world-class. The upgrades would therefore be a “game-changer” for operators to keep visitors and staff safe along the Milford corridor, as well as managing operational logistics across the area which was mostly wilderness.
“In terms of crisis management and emergency response, this is a critical development and will hopefully result in timely responses and evacuations when necessary.”
Tourism Ltd general manager Tim Holland said, “The further investment in the Milford Fibre Link means that safety along the road for visitors is enhanced, and that telecommunications and internet is vastly improved.”
It would improve service for businesses, as well as be helpful in extreme weather, he said.