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Fox Glacier Road Closed Indefinitely

Nathan Bitcheno
Aug 26, 2019
Nathan Bitcheno

The access road to the iconic destination of Fox Glacier/Te Moeka o Tuawe in South Westland will be closed for the indefinite future after an engineering report commissioned by the Department of Conservation (DOC) and the New Zealand Transport Agency found it was no longer practical to re-establish road access into the valley. This comes alongside an announcement today of a $3.9 million International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy investment to develop visitor experiences around Fox Glacier, and support the ongoing resilience of the South Westland tourism economy.

DOC (Department of Conservation) South Westland Operations Manager, Wayne Costello, says, “We’ll do all we can to ensure opportunities to view the glacier by foot or bike, will be reinstated by the busy summer season. While visitors won’t be able to get as close to the glacier as they have in the past, these new opportunities will be designed to provide high-quality, enduring glacier country experiences.”

“DOC took the decision to close the road very seriously and has been guided by expert GNS Science/Te Pū Ao (GNS) and engineering advice. The estimated cost of reinstating vehicle and foot access to the glacier is approximately $16 million, with no guarantees the work would survive one of the heavy rain events the area experiences on a regular basis.

“DOC has been working with the community and iwi to minimise the disruption of this closure on Fox Glacier/Weheka township, which remains open for business, offering many other stunning visitor attractions.  Fox Glacier is also home to the world-famous Lake Matheson which is a significant drawcard for visitors.

“Helicopter glacier trips, snow landings and scenic flights are still operating and the close-by Franz Josef Glacier is open also.”

The access road has been closed since storms in February further mobilised an enormous landslide, causing damage to the access road and facilities. The road then suffered more damage during an extraordinary rain event in March.

The most recent closure came after a year of multiple landslides damaging the road and facilities, costing in excess of 1.5 million to repair.

The engineering report concludes there is no practical engineering solution to stem the flow of the landslide and enable road access to be re-established.