Tourists on the way to the West Coast from the Southern Lakes
District were only gradually learning yesterday they would be
unable to proceed past the washed-out Wanganui River bridge
at Harihari, south of Hokitika.
Most tourists spoken to by the Otago Daily Times around
Makarora and elsewhere yesterday afternoon still did not know
of the washout.
For tourists with internet access, the information was
available on the Automobile Association website from about
However, the New Zealand Transport Agency roadside electronic
message board at Lake Hawea, that normally transmits warnings
about road problems, was not operating for most of yesterday.
The message board is about 400km south of the washout and at
the point where tourists could choose an alternative route
With hundreds of vehicles heading north to the West Coast, a
Makarora resident suggested it would have made sense for the
NZTA sign at Lake Hawea to be operating.
When approached by the ODT late yesterday, NZTA
communications adviser Ewart Barnsley said the weather ''did
play havoc'' for most of the day with the fibre optics
feeding electronic message boards at Lake Hawea and Cromwell.
''They are both up and running now advising drivers of the
bridge closure at Harihari.
''However, the weather may still yet have a role to play in
Two Polish tourists, Anna Mikicka and Szymon Kowalczuk, were
among those who arrived back in the Lakes district after a
night at Fox Glacier.
They were heading for a Cook Strait ferry they had booked but
were philosophical about having to find a new route.
They had enjoyed seeing the ''wild'' rivers of the West Coast
as they returned to Lake Hawea.
The McKelvie family from west Queensland were not aware of
the bridge problem until informed by the ODT but were
intending to continue north anyway, as far as the glaciers.
Kim McKelvie said having flown in from Mt Isa, where
temperatures have been 45degC most days, they were simply
enjoying the cool temperatures and the rain.
Cyclists Abby Lute, of Idaho, and Clare Ogilvy were two of
several cyclists spoken to by the ODT who were unaware of the
problem. However, they were continuing on to Hokitika, hoping
that by the time they reached the bridge a way would be
available for them to continue.
A guide on a tour bus said his company would reassess their
route today but they intended continuing on to Franz Josef
Adding to communications problems for tourists were three
Telecom cell sites ''knocked out'' by the extreme weather
Media and public relations manager Kate Woodruffe told the
Otago Daily Times that to ensure emergency calls were
monitored it was standard procedure to dispatch a technician
with a satellite phone.
However, the damaged road network and continuing bad weather
had made that difficult.
Ms Woodruffe said Telecom hoped to have a technician at
affected sites by yesterday afternoon to assess the work
required to restore services.
This would depend on access, and safety would have to be
assessed before to any work was done, she said.
Lake Wanaka Tourism general manager James Helmore was not
aware of the bridge problem until late yesterday. He said the
bulk of international tourists had not yet begun to arrive.
''If it happened in mid February it would absolutely have an