Glenorchy bypass proposed

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A bypass could be built around Glenorchy if enough residents oppose the Milford Dart tunnel.

Milford Dart Ltd (MDL) managing director Tom Elworthy has confirmed his firm would contribute towards a bypass “in some way”.

Elworthy says he will approach Queenstown Lakes District Council and Ministry of Transport if residents want traffic from the $170 million project to bypass the town.

The proposed 11.3km tunnel will connect the Routeburn Valley to the Hollyford Valley. The entrance will be near the Routeburn shelter, accessed by a road through Glenorchy.

About 100 people attended a meeting held by Glenorchy Community Association on Saturday. They voted unanimously to oppose the plans.

Elworthy says: “We left it entirely up to them to tell us what they wanted and now they are telling us, I guess.

“We’ve got a very open mind about Glenorchy.We met in 2006 and said if they wanted some connection with that traffic, to make the most of the opportunity, that’s great.

“If they didn’t then we’d be happy to work through developing a bypass. That is still our stance.

“We’d have to talk with the council and transport but we’d be willing to contribute to that in some way. We would certainly make best endeavours.”

The tunnel, which would be the longest in New Zealand, would cut return travel time between Queenstown and Milford from nine hours to four.

Those Glenorchy residents who attended Saturday’s meeting expressed concerns it could threaten the area’s ecology and their way of life.

Ronda Gollop, fifth generation Glenorchy resident, says: “It is not about us, it’s about our grandchildren.

“For 150 years people have come here seeking peace and tranquillity.

“Glenorchy has a strong sense of place and many people find a very spiritual connection to the landscape and our valley.

“In recent years the community has grown, with people seeking out the type of community that can only exist at the end of the road.”

Elworthy says there are two groups in the Glenorchy community – those that want to take advantage of the business opportunity and those that want a quiet life.

Elworthy says: “Look, in the end we’re not talking about thousands and thousands of vehicles.

“It is only buses and a small number of vehicles every day – off season only 40 movements, peak season 50 to 60 max.”

MDL still needs a concession agreement from the Department of Conservation (DoC) and appropriate resource consents from local authorities.

DoC has extended its deadline for submissions to Monday, February 20.