Motorists are being urged to drive carefully in rapidly-changing winter conditions after an accident on the Crown Range yesterday.
Two Nind Dairy Services workers travelling from Queenstown to Wanaka were lucky to escape with minor injuries after their work vehicle slipped on ice and rolled into a ditch at about 7.45am.
The area of road they lost traction on had not been gritted by Queenstown Lakes District Council roading contractors, despite the majority of the windy mountain pass being covered with grit.
Council roads boss Denis Mander says that part of the road, just below the summit heading towards Wanaka, was not icy when contractors gritted earlier that morning.
“[Contractors] had been through and there had been no ice and then it changed very quickly.
“That does happen across the network – Malaghans Road and Arthurs Point Rd are also notorious for that.”
Nind Group general manager Steve Winter says the two staff involved were driving slowly and carefully.
“When it’s sheet ice like it is, ideally you put grit over the whole lot. But if [contractors] missed a bit thinking it’s ok then possibly someone’s made the wrong call,” he says.
“It’s easy to be critical but at the end of the day it’s this time of year, you’ve just got to be so careful in these conditions.”
A regular commuter to Queenstown, who was first at the accident scene, told Mountain Scene: “I’ve been driving this road for six years now and in the past three years [council road services] have got worse every year. It’s just inconsistent.”
Mander says the council pays particular attention to the Crown Range during winter and on Tuesday night, contractors were out all night gritting and clearing the road.
Mander says he’s happy with how the service is.
“We’ve been promoting the information through the road reports and on Twitter. The idea is giving people the information they need to make sound decisions,” Mander says.
Meanwhile, more snow is expected in the mountains today and tomorrow – good news for Coronet Peak’s scheduled opening on Saturday.
Coronet’s ski area manager Hamish McCrostie says the mountain has a base of about 20-30cm on the main trails, mostly due to snowmaking.
“We’re on track,” McCrostie says.
“We’ll need a bit more snowmaking, and with the assistance of Mother Nature, we’re pretty confident we’ll open. As long as it stays cold we’ll be looking good.”