Milford celebrates as first convoy through

On board...Real Journeys Milford Sound cruise crew got together to celebrate the road being one...
On board...Real Journeys Milford Sound cruise crew got together to celebrate the road being one step closer to being fully open. PHOTO: LAURA SMITH
A sense of normality is finally felt in the Milford Sound Piopiotahi community as the first of the essential services convoys passed through the flood damaged highway on Saturday.

The relief from those employed by Milford Sound based companies was obvious.

Lack of access to the world heritage site had caused business to drop; tourists and supplies were limited by the restrictions of air travel.

Discover Milford Sound cafe and information centre manager Tandra Lawrence said while tourists were able to choose fly-cruise-fly options, the lack of tourists via road meant customers were few.

However, she said they were acting as a “hub” for the community.

“They are still able to come in for a coffee, grab a pizza. Just getting supplies in today mainly on our end for the community.”

She said they were optimistic about having the road re-opened soon to tourist buses.

“Having it open just for a bit of normality for the team is nice, seeing some vehicles coming in. To be fair we’re used to isolation so it is what it is and you’ve just got to roll with the punches “

Just outside the cafe, the usually highly coveted parking spaces were empty of vehicles.

Even flight options were limited at the weekend as ex-cyclone Uesi made its way toward Fiordland; the few tourists who had managed to land had short visits as pilots were anxious to stay ahead of the bad weather.

Tourist Carlo Baggio was happy just to have gotten to Milford.

“It’s an amazing place. It’s a shame we can’t go on to a cruise but, still, its good to be here I think. Just to see everything I can really, It’s the only chance I’m going to get.”

Real Journeys area manager Jason Steele said with just flights coming in they had seen a “massive downtown” with the road shut.

“The other problem is getting our food in, laundry and just general supplies. But we were fortunate enough that majors stores arrived just before the road closed.”

He said the road was pivotal to Milford Sound and had “only two fly days in the past week”.

As an area, operators had carried only 450 people on cruises on the first of the two fly days, compared to 5500 usually at this time of year.

He said it would be great when the road re-opened to the public.

“I can’t wait to see some different faces other than stuff. We welcome it, I want to show off our backyard and all that good stuff.”

Preparations had been made for the storm, with sandbags piled up ready if necessary but he did not expect it to be as bad as the last storm.

Silke Wilson had sailed down to Milford Sound from Nelson with her two children and husband; she said she felt lucky to have the place practically to themselves and was ready for any bad weather.

“We were surprised by the lack of tourists. For us, it was amazing because we could go with our own boat to the waterfall.”

She said they were waiting for any bad weather to pass before heading on again.


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