Why make these recommendations?

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2018 in one day roughly 1,293 vehicles entered Milford Sound Piopiotahi, delivering 5,771 passengers to the boat terminal. Buses and other heavy vehicles made up less than 10% of these. Between 2016-2018, around 20-30 days each year there were more vehicles than parking spaces available at Piopiotahi. In addition to regular visitors, this past summer we had more than 100 recreational boaties (plus trailers) competing for a parking space in Piopiotahi at one time.

Milford Road is ranked third of any Waka Kotahi-managed road in New Zealand for personal risk and is considered challenging. The area has numerous natural hazards that many visitors are unaware of including, avalanche, rock fall, flooding, earthquakes and tsunami. Encouraging all visitors to the area (domestic and international) to use low/zero carbon-emission buses or guided tours where possible, protects the peaceful natural experience and offers a far safer, richer and more environmentally friendly option for visitors.

Local observations

We are also hearing, from local drivers, operators and community members, is that people are concerned about the numbers of drivers currently using the road. They report regularly observing drivers who are unprepared for the conditions, are racing to make a boat trip, and are putting themselves and others at risk as a consequence. You can view feedback on this in these two documents.

Feedback from professional coach drivers (PDF, 953K)>

Feedback on the Milford Road corridor (PDF, 467K)>

Next steps

We now need to honour the intent of the masterplan by looking at a wide range of options including the potential to require most international visitors to use a guided tour, or hop-on-hop-off bus to travel right through to Piopiotahi.

The masterplan aims to make bus and tour options preferable to self-driving in most cases. We know that many tourists really like leaving the car behind at Te Anau or elsewhere, and letting a knowledgeable tour guide take them through while they sit back and focus on the incredible surroundings. The zero-emission hop-on-hop-off service is intended to enable people to get off and explore the tracks and sites along the Milford Road at their own pace and significantly reduce road user risk and congestion alongside the environmental footprint of visitors.

Right now, work is underway to rigorously test the options to understand the best viable solutions. This includes assessing any policy and legal implications. How and whether to progress solutions identified through this process, will be a decision for Government, after public consultation.