Hands up for highway promoter

The promoter of a proposed Haast-Hollyford highway was buoyed last night by strong support from a public meeting in Te Anau.

A show of hands showed the overwhelming majority of the estimated 200 people there supported Durham Havill's proposal for a road from Haast to Milford Sound via the Hollyford Valley.

While some people did not put up their hand, only seven indicated they were opposed.

Mr Havill said the 98km of new road was ''a passion of mine'' which he was determined to see happen, although he said he did not know what the timetable for consents and construction would be.

''I'm not going to stop. This road should be built. It is logical that it be built.''

Last week, Mr Havill, a former mayor of Westland, said he was setting up a private company to promote the road.

Responding to a question last night, he said six to 10 people would put in some money to ''get the ball rolling'' and he had a financier, whom he did not name, on board.

He stood by his estimate that the project would cost no more than $220 million.

One person asked if the company would be public so supporters could have a part in it.

Mr Havill laughed and said he had not thought of that, but it was a good idea.

He said there was one major issue the new company would have to sort - that ''someone'' had ''snipped out approximately 40km'' of the road reserve the road would follow.

Investigations showed this had happened between 1976 and 1977 without discussion with local authorities.

''We think it was a mistake, but we're having a hell of a job getting it back.''

After the meeting, Mr Havill was approached by dozens of people congratulating him and offering their support.

Newly elected Southland Mayor Gary Tong, who was asked by an audience member to speak, said the past council had turned down supporting the road for ''the right reasons'' - because of a lack of information - but ''be assured I will be talking more to Durham and we will take this forward''.

allison.rudd@odt.co.nz

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