Budget 2020: $13.7m allocated for rebuild of Fiordland conservation, infrastructure

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage.
Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage. Photo credit: Getty

Budget 2020 is allocating $13.7 million to rebuild vital conservation and visitor infrastructure destroyed by a severe storm in Fiordland earlier this year, Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage announced on Sunday.

Fiordland's iconic Great Walks, including the Routeburn Track and the Milford Track - sections of which were significantly damaged by the slips and flooding - should be ready to re-open in time for the summer season.

"This means Kiwis can get out into nature, along with international visitors when it’s safe for borders to re-open," Sage said in a statement.

A three-day storm from February 4 to February 6 sparked a major rescue operation as torrential rain and slips destroyed huts, campsites, bridges and sections of track, used predominantly by tourists and Department of Conservation staff carrying out vital conservation work.

The funding, planned to be released over four years, consists of $9.52 million of capital expenditure - material and labour costs of replacing assets including tracks, bridges and huts - and $4.21 million of operating costs for assets repaired or replaced.

One-tenth of the region's annual rainfall - more than 820 mm - fell in Fiordland during the storm.

"Soon after the storm I visited the area and saw how the extreme weather had significantly damaged more than 440 kilometres of walking tracks, with the Milford Track and Routeburn Tracks sustaining the most damage. Lake Howden Hut and 32 bridges were damaged, along with other huts, campsites, and facilities," Sage confirmed.

"It's important to get this region back up and running as soon as possible to help sustain local jobs and businesses and enable people to get out into nature and experience a spectacular part of Aotearoa.

"Piopiotahi/Milford Sound has more than one million visitors a year and the Milford Track is one of New Zealand’s premier walking tracks, attracting more than 14,000 users a year."

The funding package will also restore 500 of the region's critical predator-trapping networks destroyed in the storm.

"We're committed to rebuilding together to get our local economies moving again and ensuring New Zealanders can enjoy the very best of their own backyard."

Milford Road (SH94) from Te Anau to Milford Sound - a scenic highway with 15 walking tracks along the way - will also be rebuilt, as well as the Hollyford Track, the Greenstone and Caples tracks and the Rees-Dart Track.