Highway consent still distant

Steve Ruru.
Steve Ruru.
It will be some time yet before the elected representatives and roading officials consider the proposed Haast-Hollyford Highway, Southland District Council (SDC) chief executive Steve Ruru says.

The $250million-plus highway, linking the West Coast and the Milford Sound-Te Anau road via the Hollyford Valley, would be New Zealand’s first privately-owned toll road, although the plan is to hand it back to public administration after 30 years.

More than half its 136km length would be within the SDC area.

In June, Transport Minister Simon Bridges said while a private road was "theoretically possible", consent would involve complex conservation and legal issues and the Government had no plans to support the project unless it passed through standard land transport planning processes.

That would require its assessment by the Otago and Southland regional land transport committees, which have been holding joint meetings for more than two years, and their West Coast equivalent.

If supported, the proposal would be included in the Southland and West Coast land transport plans.

Later that month, Southland district councillors voted to send the proposal to the Otago and Southland committees for consideration.

Mr Ruru said last week that had not yet happened and would not for some time.

The first step was to decide on the process to be followed and what information project backers Haast Hollyford Highway Ltd (HHHL) would need to provide to the committees.

Mr Ruru said he had written to Russell Hawkes, a senior transport planner with Environment Southland, asking him to liaise with New Zealand Transport Agency staff and report back.

Once that had happened, a letter would be sent to HHHL.

Mr Ruru said his view was HHHL would need to produce a comprehensive business plan using the Treasury’s "better business cases" template, used for  major roading projects, which details how a project  would be funded, its economic benefits,  management, public support, evidence of consultation, and  alternative routes.

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