Date: 24 August 2019
A storm in March 2019 caused unprecedented damage to the DOC-managed Fox Glacier valley access road, tracks and visitor facilities in South Westland.
Restoring reliable and safe roading access to Fox Glacier/Te Moeka o Tuawe is no longer possible due to the Alpine Gardens landslide (New Zealand’s largest active landslide) and resulting debris flow, which has consistently damaged infrastructure and has now made the north side of the steep valley unsafe to enter for pedestrians and vehicles.
The estimated cost of attempting to reinstate 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.
This latest closure came after a year of multiple landslides damaging the road and facilities costing in excess of 1.5 million to keep the road open.
In the current conditions, there is no practical engineering solution to stem the flow of the landslide and enable access to be re-established. DOC will continue to assess the viability of reinstating the road should conditions in the valley settle or change over the coming years.
In June 2019, an engineering report commissioned by DOC and the New Zealand Transport Agency identified that it was no longer viable to reinstate the infrastructure in Fox Glacier/Te Moeka o Tuawe valley.
Conclusion for the Fox Glacier/Te Moeka o Tuawe access road (northern side)
The reinstatement of the main (north side) Access Road would be very difficult because of the existing river bed and bank conditions, and hence very expensive… [A]ny reinstated road would be subject to severe erosion pressures along the fan [from Mills Creek (which is fed from the ‘Alpine Garden’ landslide)] reach, and in time would be overwhelmed by the rising valley bed levels.
The present fan covers the whole valley floor, and its height and extent means it is a severe restriction on the Fox River in flood events. The erosion and collapse activity of the Alpine Garden debris accumulation has increased in recent years, and the trend is one of accelerating collapse, not declining. The fan build up and pressures on the north side will thus continue to increase.
Engineers recommendation for the Fox Glacier/Te Moeka o Tuawe access road (northern side)
That the north side Access Road (to the glacier) be abandoned as impractical, given the prevailing valley and river conditions and likely future trends.
Engineers recommendation for other assets in the valley
If the south side access is to be maintained then some protection measures will be necessary, but this should not include any reinstatement at the main washout by the 1750 moraine.
That no protection measures be undertaken at the Swing Bridge, given the likelihood of failure by bank erosion on one side, and an overwhelming by sediment flows on the other. Given these hazards the bridge should remain closed.
$3.9 milllion to maximise glacier country visitor attractions
An International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL) investment of $3.9 million will enable the development of a suite of alternative attractions to draw visitors to Fox Glacier/Weheka township and surrounding area
View larger map (PDF, 4,825K)
Investment from the International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL) will be used to mitigate the impacts of the road closure on Fox Glacier/Weheka township. An IVL investment of $3.9 million will enable the development of a suite of alternative attractions to draw visitors to Fox Glacier/Weheka township and surrounding area.
The package of activities includes:
- Redesigning the Fox Glacier/Te Moeka o Tuawe experience and valley walks and creating a carpark and cycle/walkway for access to the south side of the valley and glacier views, and building trails to connect existing facilities
- Collaborating with Ngāi Tahu and Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio to develop a day walk to Lake Gault, with reflection views of Kā Tiritiri o te Moana and incorporating rowi kiwi and lowland forest stories. This walk extends the walking options at world-famous Lake Matheson.
- Developing and promoting Peak Viewpoint which offers stunning views of the Southern Alps/ Kā Tiritiri o te Moana
- Re-opening the coastal walkway to Galway Beach which provides a mix of alpine views, wildlife and coastal forests and wetlands
- Extending the cycle/walking trail on Cook Flat Rd from Fox Glacier/Weheka township to Lake Matheson.
- Re-configuring Lake Matheson carparking to provide for additional users displaced from the glacier valley.
- Refreshing road signage and visitor information.
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