28 Mar 2019

Fox Glacier businesses after wild weather: 'We need visitors'

7:34 am on 28 March 2019

Tourists are being urged not to put off visiting Fox Glacier despite limited road access and a communications black out.

The Waiho Bridge on State Highway 6.

The Waiho Bridge on State Highway 6. Photo: Wayne Costello / DOC

There has been no phone, mobile or internet connection since the Waiho Bridge, just south of Franz Josef, was washed away on Tuesday afternoon, taking the Chorus fibre cable connecting Fox Glacier to the rest of the world with it.

Chorus engineers were on site trying to install a temporary fix, but it could take at least a few days, spokesperson Nathan Beaumont said.

"What they are doing is actually put a pole at each side of the river, and then string fibre from that pole to the other side, until the bridge can be fully repaired.

The washout of the Waiho Bridge on Tuesday afternoon turned a 25 minute drive to Franz Josef into a 12-hour journey via Aoraki-Mt Cook National Park and through Arthur's Pass.

New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) promised it would fix the Waiho Bridge within 10 days, at a cost of about $1 million.

Until then, there were some satellite phone and radio communications at Fox Glacier which could be used in an emergency, West Coast Civil Defence spokesperson Mark Crowe said.

Speaking from Wanaka, Fox Glacier Guiding chief executive Rob Jewell said he was hoping tourists would still come.

'It will have an effect, but I'm hoping it won't have a major effect. We will bounce back quickly as soon as NZTA get that bridge fixed.

And despite the lack of communications available, Glacier Country Tourism Group chair Ashley Cassin said Fox Glacier businesses wanted to send the message that the town was open for business.

"We need visitors. It's still the high part of the tourist season and we have the capacity to deal with guests.

"Most of the businesses have come through this weather event roughly unscathed."