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Shortening the way to Milford

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Everyone wants to go to Milford Sound, but it is a long way from the rest of the country, so boosters are forever promoting ways to shorten the journey.

The original “Southland–Westland Link” intended to put a road in from Jackson Bay on the West Coast to Milford via the Hollyford Valley. The current Hollyford Valley Road was approved in 1936, but only 16km of it was built. Some believe an 80km toll road connecting this with Jackson Bay is the region’s infrastructure key.

In the 1990s the Ngai Tahu iwi hoped to install a monorail along the Greenstone Valley, the shortest route from Queenstown to The Divide, just 40km east of Milford Sound. An alliance of greenies and outdoor enthusiasts raised enough public concern to scupper that.

Recently, a $160-million, 11km-long tunnel has been proposed from near the start of the Routeburn Track to the Hollyford Valley. The cost will be a barrier, but this scheme perhaps has more legs than others. Passengers will be able to stay on the same vehicle (diesel-electric hybrid buses are suggested) all the way from Queenstown to Milford Sound and the one-way journey time would be halved to a little over two hours.

For every supporter of these ventures in Queenstown, there is an opponent in Te Anau – a town that relies heavily on Milford-bound traffic for its livelihood.

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