Concerns Franz Josef will 'shrivel up and die' if borders stay closed

Franz Joseph township. Photo: ODT files
Franz Joseph township. Photo: ODT files
The future of a remote South Island town hangs in the balance.

The West Coast has had a challenging year, with ongoing closed borders and no foreign visitors since March.

Franz Josef based Glacier Country Helicopters owner Gus Gordon says summer traffic has picked up, but he's not optimistic.

"We're worried about how long it will last for until the borders open. Towns like ours are going to shrivel up and die.

"Normally businesses gather income from November through to about March and then it quiets off. So without a great deal before Christmas, and its only just started after Boxing Day, a lot of business owners [are worried]."

Helicopter leaving Franz Josef Glacier. Photo: Getty Images
Helicopter leaving Franz Josef Glacier. Photo: Getty Images

Gordon said it has been a bit busier around town recently, but despite the better weather and the numbers of people arriving, "how long it lasts we will see".

"There is a small buzz in town but it's not like it normally is."

He said he has flown more people in the past few days than the past two months but the season has been quite different since Covid-19, he said.

"It's been tumbleweeds down the main street of Franz."

Gordon said a lack of work opportunities has meant many have had to move on from the town.

"A ton of people have left town for good. It's the first time you will see houses available for rent in Franz Joseph. Usually, if one goes up it's gone before you hear about it."


Personally I'm more concerned the glaciers will "shrivel up and die". The massive carbon footprint of people travelling from all over the world to a remote part of New Zealand and then take a helicopter ride to stand on them will only increase the speed of their demise.





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