Skippers Rd to reopen

Work being carried out on Skippers Rd. Photo supplied.
Work being carried out on Skippers Rd. Photo supplied.
Labour Day means an extra day of rest for many, but Skippers Canyon Tourist operators will be praying for a full day's work, come October 22.

Skippers Rd will be open for Labour weekend after a 5m section of the gravel road plunged 100m into the Shotover River four weeks ago, leaving a gaping hole in the only access road for residents and tourist operators.

The collapse meant full closure of the road for one week and a three times a day opening for the operators only since.

At least seven businesses operating in Skipper Canyon have suffered financial loss, either through having to turn away customers or find alternative methods to transport them in, such as helicopters from midway up Coronet Peak to the Canyon.

Skippers Canyon Jet co-owner Winky Hohneck said the cost for one of their trips with the helicopter had gone from $129 to $204.

Mrs Hohneck could not comment on whether there had been fewer rides taken up this month compared with 2011 and said it was generally a quiet time for their business.

Co-owner of Queenstown Heritage Tours YasmineIckenroth said the disruption had been a challenge but they had managed to provide some alternatives and work around the road's three-daily opening times.

"We couldn't use the morning time. We would need to blast through to make that and this is not what we do. It doesn't work with our customers."

Mrs Ickenroth said she could not calculate the exact loss, but the worst part of it for their business was when the road first fell and she had found they were unprepared.

"We lost a lot of business, but it's not the end of the world and it is part of the game in this industry."

Labour weekend has traditionally been one of the busiest weekends for Skippers Canyon operators and Mrs Ickenroth was hoping for more of the same this year.

QLDC network operations engineer Michael Wardill said the weather and ground conditions encountered to date had helped progress and speed of the reconstruction.

"Things have worked in our favour and as long as the weather holds and there are no further slips, the road should re-open at Labour Weekend."

Mr Wardill advised that even though the road was being renewed and slightly improved, once it was re-opened it would still be suitable only for 4WD vehicles.