1 Mar 2020

Fox Glacier township access misinformation raises winter worries

8:02 am on 1 March 2020

Fox Glacier businesses are worried that tourists believe access to the town is shut, making what could be a hard winter even harder.

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The main road through Fox Glacier township remains open, even if road access onto the glacier itself is closed. Photo: RNZ / Tess Brunton

The government announced $3.9 million to help sustain tourism in the south Westland area after the access road to the nearby glacier was destroyed nearly a year ago by a major landslide.

The road's permanent closure was announced in August after engineers reported there was no practical solution to reopen it.

Access to the Fox Glacier township remains open however, and Glacier Valley Eco Tours lead guide Cliff Goodwin said misunderstandings about that were costing the town.

"People say that Fox is closed, we've even had people saying 'oh, I can't get to Fox'. Can't you? Because it's just the terminal face walk that's closed.

"So there seems to be some misinformation or people's misunderstanding what's actually going on over there."

Cafe Nevé owner François Goosen said the town had experienced a drop in tourism, but even without the close-up views of the glacier, people were still visiting and staying.

"It's not going to turn into a ghost town. Look, they're trying their best to get access points - not access to the glacier but points where people can walk up and see the glacier.

"They can't walk up the valley - and we understand that, because there's a big slip up there that's still moving and it's too dangerous."

He said the drop in visitors could make it a tight winter for many businesses, but many would already be prepared.

"We all know that winter's gonna be quiet, so we make provisions for it so that we can get through winter.

"You know what, if it's a tougher winter we tighten our belts and we work through it. I do believe we will get through it."

Ivorytowers Backpackers Lodge owner Dale Scott said Fox Glacier and Franz Josef towns could not rely solely on the glaciers to attract and entertain visitors.

He said it did not pay to become complacent, especially as access to the glaciers could change rapidly.

He said they needed to consider alternative attractions heading into winter.

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