The work includes track surface and toilet upgrades which can be done while following all the government guidance on how to operate safely at this level.
The improvements are part of a $5.7M Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) project to ensure visitors going to Ōpārara Arches north of Westport on the West Coast of the South Island can be managed appropriately.
Over the two stages of the project, it is expected to employ 35 to 40 people.
The bulk of the roughly 8,000 people who visit the Ōpārara annually are domestic travellers, so it is expected this area will still be well visited even with few international travellers.
DOC Project Manager Aideen Larkin says the first stage of the project will ease some of the visitor impacts and is consistent with the management plans for the area.
“Flush toilets will be installed, which should stop people using areas around the current toilet inappropriately.
“We’ll be improving track surfaces to keep visitors safe and on track and to prevent mud forming. We will also be installing video surveillance equipment to alert us if people enter the Honeycomb Caves restricted area.
“All of this work will help us better manage the visitors who go to the Ōpārara and ensure the environment is protected.
“The landforms of this area form a large part of the character of this place, and the work will be undertaken in a sensitive manner.”
Further work, including safety improvements to the 16km access road, rerouting walkways, and installing stairs and viewing areas to avoid sensitive areas is planned.
An Assessment of Environmental Effects of the planned work has been completed and provides recommendations on how to reduce the effect of any work on the sensitive natural environment of the area.
No construction work has been undertaken at Alert Levels 3 or 4, but work planning the project has been done by people working from their homes.
In 2019/20 season approximately 8000 vehicles travelled into the Ōpārara Basin. The phase 2 improvements will reduce the number of vehicle accidents drivers have had while negotiating the narrow and roughly surfaced road.
During 2020 until lockdown, there were 16 incidents on the 16km Oparara Road. During 2019, 47 incidents were recorded.