Toll road urgency

The company proposing a 127km toll road through South Westland from Haast to the Hollyford Valley is aiming to make a start before next year's general election - just in case there is a change of government.

The Green Party has opposed the road, designed as a more direct tourist link between the West Coast and Milford Sound, for at least a dozen years.

Green MP Eugenie Sage described it to the Otago Daily Times yesterday as a ''large and destructive dumb idea from the dumb ideas box''.

''It is totally at odds with South Westland's outstanding and internationally recognised landscape, natural heritage and recreational values,'' she said, saying the Green Party would ''campaign hard'' to stop it.

Property company chairman Durham Havill this week told the ODT

government support for the road was ''pretty vital''.

''If we don't get it done ... in this term of government, it'll be a battle in the next term because the Greens have come out and said they would be in the courts with us for years.''

He was ''hoping like hell'' there would not be a change of government next year, Mr Havill said.

''If a change of government comes about and we haven't got this road into a position where it starts to be built, then there could be doubt.''

The company did not want to gamble on the outcome of the election and wanted to be ''through the hard yards'' by then, Mr Havill said.

The property company is owned by the Westland District Council, which met yesterday with barely a mention of the road proposal. The Southland District Council is due to discuss the proposal once a report it has commissioned is available.

Mr Havill was disappointed not to have heard from the Southland council, which he hoped would support the road.

''The ball's in their court if they want to be part of it. I believe the people of Southland have got to motivate the council.''

Meanwhile, the Government will not consider the road proposal in conjunction with two other proposals to improve tourist access to Milford Sound. Conservation Minister Nick Smith announced on Monday he would be taking responsibility for decisions concerning the Milford Dart Tunnel and a monorail link between Queenstown and Fiordland.

-mark.price@odt.co.nz

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