Briefings on toll road proposal

Southland and Otago local authorities will get a confidential briefing in about a fortnight on the proposal to build a road through South Westland from Haast to Hollyford.

Three members of the Westland District Council's property company, Westland District Property Ltd, are planning a trip south from December 12 to 14.

General manager Bruce Smith told the Otago Daily Times yesterday he was still finalising the itinerary but he, company chairman Durham Havill and one other director would visit Queenstown, Te Anau and Invercargill to brief as many of the "key stakeholders" as they could.

This would include councillors, tourism operators and others with a "significant interest" in the road.

"There are no public meetings," Mr Smith said.

The company announced in October it had a "memorandum of understanding" with overseas financiers for the $220 million needed to build the 160km toll road providing a more direct link between Fiordland and the West Coast.

A $20-per-head toll is being suggested.

Mr Smith said there had been talk of including a cycle track with the new highway but it was "not built in" at this stage.

Mr Smith said since the news broke last month that overseas finance had been secured for the highway, he had been overwhelmed by the amount of support and surprised at the lack of opposition.

"We're getting a huge amount of support. There are people hopping out of the woodwork everywhere.

"I thought we were going to take some fire on this one at some stage, but I haven't seen anything.

"The level of support has staggered me."

The Otago Daily Times reported last month Forest and Bird advocacy manager Kevin Hackwell was opposed to the road, but was also sceptical that it would be a profitable investment for an overseas financier.

Mr Smith said the source of the finance would not be released publicly "in the short term".

"We have signed very, very strict confidentiality agreements."

mark.price@odt.co.nz