Work set to begin on Fox Glacier access

Work will depend on weather conditions at Fox Glacier. Photo: Getty Images
Work will depend on weather conditions at Fox Glacier. Photo: Getty Images

A month after heavy rain again closed the Fox Glacier valley, the Department of Conservation says work will begin soon to reinstate foot and vehicle access on the valley floor.
However, it also warned of future landslips in the valley and said it needs to look at long-term options.

The deluge in early November mobilised  a massive landslide that blocked the Fox River and caused extensive damage to the access causeway leading to the car park.

Machinery is being positioned on site ready to start work.

Doc South Westland operations manager Wayne Costello said he expected work would begin once the current heavy rain passed and river levels had dropped sufficiently to allow safe access.

"The plan is to dig a new channel for the river and restore a single-lane access across the causeway. This will allow full public vehicle access to the car park and walking track," Mr Costello said.

"There is also work to do to repair the walking track, which was also damaged by the heavy rain event."

The work would be subject to the weather, as it was neither safe nor practical to work during or immediately following heavy rain, he said.

"If all goes well, it is possible that access will be restored by Christmas, however due to the risks and scale of the landslide along with the uncertainty of West Coast weather events, further storm events are likely to affect progress.

"No matter what level of investment we make, there is no way to prevent further damage.

"If another large landslide debris flow occurs, it may again take out the accessway into the Fox Valley. If this happens Doc and the New Zealand Transport Agency will have to reassess whether trying to maintain vehicle and foot access is feasible in the short term."

Until the landslide settled down, access into the valley was likely to remain a huge challenge, Mr Costello said.

"We will all have to be patient while this settling down process takes place and also consider long term what the best opportunities are for exploring Westland Tai Poutini National Park from Fox Glacier."

Fox Glacier can still be accessed by air.

- By Laura Mills

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