West coast

Franz Glacier Vehicle Access Reopens

The Department of Conservation has reopened access to the Franz Josef Glacier Valley.

Department of Conservation

May 30, 2019

Franz Josef Glacier Valley Reopens.PNG

The Department of Conservation has reopened access to the Franz Josef Glacier Valley.

The access road and track to the glacier viewing point suffered extensive damage during a flood of unprecedented size in March, that also washed out the State Highway Bridge over the Waiho.

While the valley is open, visitors are urged to take care as roadworks are continuing.

Wayne Costello, Operations Manager for DOC in South Westland says it’s great to have the access open again.

“DOC and the contractors have worked tirelessly to get the valley open as quickly as possible after it was destroyed by the flood.

“Immediately after opening at 10am yesterday, cars and campervans were once again making their way into the valley and people were taking walks to see the glacier, despite the inclement weather. It is great to see!

“It will be sometime before the road works and river protection works are complete. We are hoping the weather will behave and allow us to finish the work to a weather-proof and robust standard.”

While vehicle access to the Franz Josef Glacier has not been possible since March, scenic flights and heli-hikes to the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers have continued. DOC has also been promoting other attractions for visitors to explore in South Westland on its website.

Vehicle and pedestrian access to the northside of the Fox Glacier Valley remains closed after a massive landslide and flood destroyed the access road. However, access to viewing points on the Southside Road are open and have been available to the public to access since shortly after the March flood.

DOC is assessing alternative recreation and visitor opportunities in the Fox area while at the same time seeking specialist engineering advice on the feasibility of rebuilding a road into the northside of the Fox Glacier Valley.

The ever-present threat of New Zealand’s largest active landslide and the constant debris flows into the Fox Valley makes this an unlikely prospect.