New company forming to build Haast-Milford road

Former Westland mayor Durham Havill says he is forming a private company to build a ''class one highway'' from Haast to Milford Sound via the Hollyford Valley.

The $220 million road was being promoted by Westland Properties Ltd, a council-controlled organisation owned by the Westland District Council, in partnership with an unnamed offshore investor. Mr Havill is chairman of Westland Properties but has signalled his intention to resign at the annual meeting later this month.

When he announced his resignation, he said the proposal was being ''stymied'' by lack of support from the Westland and Southland District Councils. The new company was ''committed to forging ahead'' with the road, unencumbered by reporting commitments to either council, he said on Friday.

It would lodge resource consents with the councils when the time was right. Mr Havill would not say who else was involved in the new company, but said some of them did not live on the West Coast.

Westland Properties chief executive Bruce Smith has already resigned from the organisation but Mr Havill would not say whether he was involved in the new company.

The route would be the one already proposed, Mr Havill said. It would be between 108km and 138km long, of which almost 80km would be in the Southland district, and follow an unformed paper road outside the boundaries of the Fiordland National Park.

The road would be a major tourist route, cutting 335km and four to five hours of travelling time from the journey between Haast and Milford Sound. Mr Havill said he believed the cost would be $205 million, or $220 million allowing for contingencies. The new company planned to raise the money itself an not require an off-shore investor or government money.

''It will be a toll road. That's how it will be paid for.''

Mr Havill will talk about his plans at a public meeting at the Te Anau Club at 7.30pm today. In April, Southland district councillors decided they did not have enough information to support the highway.

They were sceptical of the construction estimate and whether tolls would raise enough to cover costs, and concerned liability for the road might fall back on the council. Incoming mayor Gary Tong said on Friday he would attend the public meeting ''as a spectator''.

He has declared his support for the road in principle, but said he would attend to represent the ratepayers and to hear what Mr Havill had to say.

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