THE Lower Hollyford Rd will be fully repaired by next summer, but the extent to which backcountry users can drive the first 13km section this summer remains unclear.
Nine months after flooding forced the Fiordland road’s closure, the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) yesterday announced it would restore the last 3km section at an estimated cost of $2.3 million.
In September, the agency, Southland District Council (SDC) and guided walk concessionaire Ngai Tahu agreed the first 13km would be repaired by December 20, at a cost of $400,000.
However, a sentence in Monday’s media statement will concern those hoping to walk the Hollyford Track or Pyke-Big Bay route, or access the valley for fishing, climbing or hunting this summer.
The statement said the repair work, which would include building rock armoury for 160 metres and strengthening another area weakened by the storm in February, would be carried out during the coming summer.
“To ensure public safety and a speedy conclusion to this huge project, Lower Hollyford Rd will remain closed for the duration of this work, enabling full, uninterrupted access by construction traffic, contractors and heavy machinery.”
When asked for clarification on the road’s status this summer, the NZTA referred the Otago Daily Times to the council.
SDC strategic manager transport Hartley Hare said the first 13km would “potentially” be opened after December 20.
Although nothing had been finalised, the road could be opened for short periods at certain times of the day, Mr Hare said.
That access would be a “fluid situation” that would depend on use of the road by construction traffic, the weather, and how well the project was progressing.
The Department of Conservation (Doc) and Ngai Tahu accepted there would be limitations on public use of the road during summer, he said.
Doc Southern South Island operations director Aaron Fleming said Mr Hare’s comments matched his understanding of the situation.
The department would keep its website up-to-date with information on the road’s status, and he encouraged people to check before setting out because it would be a work site with heavy machinery.
Mr Fleming said it was difficult to estimate walker demand in the Hollyford area this summer because of the impact of Covid-19, but the high demand already shown for other Fiordland tracks could also be reflected in the Hollyford.
Ngai Tahu did not respond to the ODT‘s request for comment by deadline.