Haast-Hollyford route status far from clear

''Who removed the Haast-Hollyford road reserve from the official maps in 1989-90, and did they do it legally?''

These questions are at the forefront of the minds of those wanting to build a toll road along the 160km route linking the West Coast with Milford Sound.

After the Government's rejection of a monorail proposal on Thursday, the toll road is the last remaining live proposal for a new means of accessing the popular but remote tourist destination.

Speaking to the Otago Daily Times yesterday, Haast-Hollyford Highway Ltd owner Durham Havill restated his belief that, despite what modern maps show, the road reserve still exists.

And he has challenged Land Information New Zealand to produce evidence showing it was removed by a legal process.

Mr Havill said if the department cannot show the process, the road reserve must still exist, making it far easier for his company to obtain consent to build a toll road.

Asked by the ODT about Mr Havill's stance, Linz general manager policy and regulatory Craig Armitage said in an email ''parts of the road'' referred to by Mr Havill were accepted as legal and were shown in the ''cadastre''.

The cadastre is the system that records the location and extent of legal parcels of land, including roads.

It shows a legal road at the northern end between Haast and the Martyr River near the Cascade Valley and, at the southern end, the Lower Hollyford Rd and the Milford Sound Highway.

''However, although a connecting `road' is shown on some historical maps and documents, it is unclear whether it is in fact a legal `paper' road.

''If this 'road' is a legal road, then the district councils would own the sections within their districts. However, if the road is not legal, then that land is part of the conservation estate.''

Mr Armitage said the road could ''become legal'' if it was shown a road had been formed, public funds had been spent on it and the public had used it.

''However, the available evidence suggests that a connecting road was never completed.''

The road could also be considered a paper road if the land around it had been surveyed.

''However, in this case, the 1886 survey plan only defined the route, rather than the extents of the road, and was never formally approved as such.''

Mr Havill takes issue with this, saying the original surveyor, Gerhard Mueller, surveyed the complete road, taking into account the best topography for horse and cart traffic, and the route was ''signed off'' as a road reserve.

A ''pack track'' for horses was formed soon afterwards.

And, he says, during the Great Depression, the Government set out to put the road through - work suspended only because of the outbreak of World War 2.

Mr Havill said that until 1977, the road was marked on maps with two ''solid black lines'' but after that, it was marked with two broken or ''pecked'' lines.

Then ''somewhere around late 1989-90, it disappeared completely off all maps''.

''We think in 89-90 something was done to remove it but ... Linz can't find any evidence to say it was removed.''

''We asked specifically if they could prove that it was removed legally. We're saying `the road was there; you prove to us it isn't a road'.''

Mr Armitage agreed some maps published by the Lands and Survey Department during the 1970s and 1980s used pecked lines to show sections of the road, while others used solid lines.

''We have identified at least one case where the road was shown using solid lines, indicating it was legal, whereas a later version of the map showed it pecked, suggesting it was not.''

''This is a reflection of the uncertainty about the legal status of the route at that time.

''Linz will normally only record roads in the cadastre where it is confident that they are legal.

''In the 1970s, the authority for recording roads in the cadastre lay with the chief surveyor of each Land District. Any removal of a legal road from the cadastre would have been under the same authority.''

Mr Havill gave the ODT the names of West Coast chief surveyors from the periods in question, but attempts to locate them have so far failed.

He said the company did not want to go to court to make its point and hoped it could work with the Government and ''common sense'' would prevail.

However, he stood by previous comments that Linz had been ''deliberately obstructive and provided misleading information on the true position''.

''If Linz advice was to be followed on this particular road, the legal status of every section of unformed legal road within New Zealand will be under question.''

-mark.price@odt.co.nz

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