Queenstown wary of fallout from Haast Road closures

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Destination Queenstown’s boss is eyeing potential tourism fallout from slip-induced road closures between the West Coast and the Southern Lakes.

Following a huge slip in mid-September at Diana Falls on State Highway 6, the road from Haast to Makarora has been closed every night from 6pm till 8am for safety reasons.

Those closures are likely to continue for at least another six months.

NZ Transport Agency is also closing the road any time there’s heavy rain that could set off more rock falls.

DQ chief executive Graham Budd says he sent notes of support two weeks ago to both Tourism West Coast and Lake Wanaka Tourism, whose regions stand to suffer most. 

However, he’s also keeping an eye out for any effects on Queenstown tourism.

“I’m not hearing about any direct effects of the closures – I would certainly think I would hear about it if it was significant in any way.

“Obviously it’s still relatively lower season although starting to pick up.”

Budd says the industry is concerned the closures will put off international visitors wanting to travel by road.

“Anyone who is planning to do a South Island drive tour would absolutely have the West Coast as a key part of that itinerary – we don’t want their experience overall to be hampered.”

Budd says Queenstown could gain extra bed nights by visitors deferring their drive to the Coast – “but I’d rather people had the full South Island experience than we benefit for a few extra bed nights”.

Budd says self-drive visitors have the flexibility to work around road closures, but coach touring companies don’t.

“I believe some of the coach touring companies who have fixed itineraries that they have to stick to will be probably at this point concerned about any impact through summer of any delays or risk to their routes.

“From a Queenstown perspective, during winter we had a little taste of the kind of impact this can cause when we had the Kawarau Gorge blocked for just one day and it caused havoc.”

Long-time Queenstown boutique hotel owner Louise Kiely says local tourism could be either advantaged or disadvantaged by the Haast Road closures.

“I think it could go either way.

“I have spoken to a couple of agents who have said that they won’t be taking the risk of booking their people through the West Coast.”