Repairs to a ford on the road to Doubtful Sound mean the road will no longer be closed during heavy rain.
Flooding of the Mica Burn ford culvert on Wilmot Pass Road usually closes the road for three to four days a year and last year, heavy rain damaged the culvert structure, which comprised five corrugated steel pipes with a design life of 40 years.
The culvert dates back to the 1960s when the road was built as part of the Manapouri Power Station development, providing access from West Arm to Deep Cove.
The Department of Conservation (DOC) is responsible for maintaining the road as it runs through Fiordland National Park. Maintenance is funded by levies on users.
DOC Partnership Ranger in Te Anau, Wendy Newton, said the $260,000 repairs involve replacing the damaged culverts with a box design culvert made of concrete with an estimated design life of 100 years.
“The box design culvert provides for a larger capacity of water flow, lowering the risk of water overflowing the ford which sometimes results in the road being closed. The larger capacity culvert is also less likely to be blocked by debris during heavy rain,” Ms Newton said.
Real Journey’s Operations Manager Neil Collinson said the culvert repairs should make this section of road more accessible for tourism operators and other visitors as the road will now be open all year round.
During construction work on the ford, the road has been closed for short periods but temporary access has been provided for bus passengers. The contractors, Downer New Zealand Limited, are hoping to complete the work as soon as possible.
About 70,000 visitors a year travel on the 21km Wilmot Pass Road to visit Doubtful Sound including tourists, recreational users, school groups, commercial fishermen and Meridian Energy staff. The road provides the only vehicle access to Doubtful Sound.