TAXPAYERS could end up with a hefty bill for road upgrades and maintenace needed for the proposed Milford Dart tunnel.
Firm Milford Dart Ltd wants to cut through 11.3km of rock between Mt Aspiring Park and Fiordland National Park – halving travel time and distance between Queenstown and Milford Sound.
But the tourist bus-only tunnel may require extensive road upgrades between Queenstown and its entrance past Glenorchy.
They include the widening of Glenorchy Road – on a cliff face east of Bob’s Cove – which could “potentially outweigh any benefits gained from the development of the tunnel” according to a report.
Routeburn Road and the Rees River Bridge might also need to be widened and upgraded.
Minister of Conservation Kate Wilkinson has given notice of her intention to grant permission for the $170 million project.
Queenstown Lakes District Council was due to meet today to discuss its submission to the DoC.
The report, prepared by council asset management engineer Andrew Edgar, highlights potential costly problems – and discusses uncertainty over who will foot the bill.
Edgar says: “It is possible that the process for granting consents will not allow the council to require the developer to contribute to addressing the issues the council will face if the tunnel is constructed.”
It states the majority of the road between Queenstown and the tunnel entrance is 100 per cent funded for maintenance and capital works by the New Zealand Transport Agency.
But: “The NZTA may not fund work that is principally to address issues created by a single commercial operator.
“As there is no plan to upgrade this route with works that would address the issues described above, the council cannot be expected to make these upgrades when no budgets have been identified and set aside.”
The report – which only addresses transport matters – also highlights the impact on Glenorchy and speculates drivers “may be tempted to speed through the township” to meet deadlines.
It also says any upgrade of the 2kms of unsealed Routeburn Road within Mt Aspiring National Park will change the look and feel of this entrance into the National Park.