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Magic defeat Steel 48-41 in Hamilton
Magic defeat Steel 48-41 in Hamilton

17 June 2024, 10:37 PM

The AVIS Magic were forced to dig deep in the second half to overcome the visiting Ascot Park Hotel Steel, 48-41, at Globox Arena in Hamilton on Monday night.In a fragmented game dominated by defence, the Steel held the lead throughout the first half, though never by more than three goals.But the injection of calmness and experience in Ariana Cable-Dixon and Ivana Rowland helped the Magic to settle into their rhythm in the second half and gain an important win that keeps them in reach of third spot on the ANZ Premiership ladder.The Magic defence of Erena Mikaere and Georgia Takarangi were outstanding from the get-go and kept the Steel shooters down at 67 percent shooting success. They claimed four intercepts and 16 gains between them.Steel started strongly, scoring three goals before Magic even opened their account.The Magic struggled to find avenues through to their shooters with a wall of pink and blue defence throughout the midcourt; Kate Heffernan leading by example at centre.But it wasn’t all rosy for the Steel attack, up against the long arms of Mikaere, who snapped up two intercepts and three gains in the first quarter. But the Magic failed to turn all their gains into goals, until the final minutes of the quarter when they closed a three-goal deficit to even the scores.Up 10-9 at the first break, Steel continued to smother the Magic attack, who were caught out too often pondering where to pass. The Steel defensive pairing of Abby Lawson and Jeanté Strydom made movement difficult for Magic shooters Ameliaranne Ekenasio and Saviour Tui.At the opposite end, Takarangi used her smarts and speed to flummox the Steel shooters (who put up 11 more shots in the first half but were let down by their lack of accuracy).Both sides were guilty of patchy play and disconnection on attack, and the scoreboard ticked over slowly.Ariana Cable-Dixon was brought on at centre and Ivana Rowland at goal shoot for the home side which helped the Magic to tie the scores again, but they still couldn’t build momentum.Steel turned to a new goal shoot, Summer Temu, who helped them to reclaim the lead, 22-20, at halftime.The wing defences on both sides made their presence felt in the third quarter: Renee Savai’inea was all over the Magic’s midcourters (who built to four intercepts and five gains for the match).Georgie Edgecombe was a power of strength for the Magic – her intercept contributed to the Magic taking a three-goal lead for the first time and holding on to it going into the final stanza, 34-31.But the real story of the second half was Ekenasio (20 from 22 attempts) finally able to take charge in the Magic circle, gaining confidence with pinpoint feeds from Cable-Dixon, and the sure hands of Rowland (16 from 17), and the gap grew out of the Steel’s reach in the final 15 minutes.Official Result and Stats: Avis Magic: 48Ascot Park Hotel Steel: 41Shooting Stats - Magic:Saviour Tui 12/14 (86%)Ameliaranne Ekenasio 20/22 (91%)Ivana Rowland 16/17 (94%)Shooting Stats - Steel:Grace Namana 16/25 (64%)Georgia Heffernan 17/26 (65%)Summer Temu 8/10 (80%)ANZ Fans' Player of the Match: Erena Mikaere (Magic)

Bird strikes potentially caused plane engine fire
Bird strikes potentially caused plane engine fire

17 June 2024, 8:55 AM

Reports suggest bird strikes were the cause of an engine fire that forced a Queenstown-Melbourne flight to make an emergency landing in Invercargill this evening.Flames were seen coming from the Virgin Australia flight - a Boeing 737 with 73 people on board - as it took off over the Shotover Delta at 6pm.Residents in Shotover Country and Lake Hayes Estate also reported hearing loud bangs and a droning, churning sound, similar to the sound of someone doing car burnouts. The noise prompted dozens of people out on to the streets of the subdivisions, near the flight path.X user (Twitter) @DrawyahYT posted from onboard the VA148 after it landed."Can confirm that the BOEING had no fault on its own part, rather several bird strikes as we departed from Queenstown," the post reads."There were a few announcements made. Pilot confirmed us hitting several birds on the way out. We're now sitting on the Invercargill runway as the fire crews check for damage."Virgin Australia Chief Operations Officer Stuart Aggs confirmed the diversion was due to "a possible bird strike on take-off". "The aircraft has been met by emergency services at Invercargill Airport. The safety of our guests and crew is our highest priority."As the American narrow-body airliner continued to ascend during its take off, turning towards Lake Hayes after the northern end of The Remarkables, the droning noise and the bangs stopped and the flames appeared to have been extinguished.The aircraft then circled Queenstown after the incident and flew off towards Invercargill, where there is a longer runway.The flight was met by three FENZ fire units and the airport unit, along with a water tanker and command unit.Queenstown Airport, Fire and Emergency southern shift manager Lyn Crosson told Stuff the engine had been shut down following a fire. Airport spokesperson Sara Irvine confirmed the Virgin Australia flight VA148 "experienced an issue just after take-off" but had landed safely in Invercargill.There are media reports that two people onboard were injured. 

UPDATED: Plane in trouble after leaving Queenstown Airport has landed in Invercargill
UPDATED: Plane in trouble after leaving Queenstown Airport has landed in Invercargill

17 June 2024, 6:25 AM

Update: The aircraft appears to have now landed in InvercargillInvercargill Airport is a sea of lights after a Virgin plane had to make an emergency landing this evening. Photo: Aaron IvesA plane leaving Queenstown Airport appears to be experiencing engine trouble during take off.Members of the public reported seeing flames coming from one of the engines and heard loud bangs, as the Virgin VA148 Melbourne took off over the Shotover Delta from the airport at about 6pm.The Flight Radar sky map shows the plane circling around to Kingston and it appears to be heading towards Invercargill, where there is a longer runway. It would likely dump fuel before attempting a landing. Stuff is reporting there are 73 people aboard the 737 plane.Shotover Country resident Shayne Galloway, in a social media post, said: "Sounded like it was coming apart over our house. One engine was throwing flames and sputtering out."Airport spokesperson Sara Irvine confirmed: "The information we can share at this stage is that Virgin Australia flight VA 148 departed Queenstown Airport at 5.59pm, bound for Melbourne. It experienced an issue just after take-off and has been diverted to Invercargill Airport."We will share another update when we have more information."A Fire and Emergency NZ spokesperson said 2 fire trucks from the Invercargill station along with one from Kingswell been sent to the airport. A command vehicle and water tanker had also been deployed to the airport.The airport fire truck was also called out.

Popular Southland hut’s lightning fast makeover
Popular Southland hut’s lightning fast makeover

17 June 2024, 4:25 AM

An historic hut on the Southland section of Te Araroa Trail has received a new lease of life following significant repairs.Martin’s Hut, located approximately 15km north of Colac Bay/Ōraka, recently underwent a lightning maintenance job which finished last month.In less than two weeks, the 1905 goldmining-era hut was future-proofed and made watertight.Works also included the addition of a small wooden deck around the front of the hut to help keep mud and water out.“The combined effects of the harsh climate and the volume of visitors using the hut for shelter took their toll, leaving this important piece of southern history in desperate need of attention for some time,” DoC Murihiku supervisor Jono Airey said“These upgrades will mean Martin’s Hut can be enjoyed by thousands more visitors for decades to come.”The hut is located north of Colac Bay/Oraka on the Southland section of Te Araroa Trail. Photo: ODT/SuppliedThe comprehensive task followed a plan from DoC’s Murihiku Heritage and Visitor team.Due to the remote location, materials were flown in, including timber donated by local Tūātapere sawmill Lindsay and Dixon.The hut is located on the Longwood Forest Track in Western Southland which forms part of Te Araroa Trail’s network.Upgrades were mentioned in a recent Tūātapere Te Waewae Community Board report, which gave an update on a meeting between Southland District Council staff and Te Araroa Trail executive director Matt Claridge.The council was advised that story panels were being developed for parts of the trail, and conversations took place about local funds being used to include Southland.Approximately 2,500 people walk the full Te Araroa Trail every year, with 70 percent of those from overseas, Claridge said.Just 30 percent begin their journey in Bluff, with most opting to walk from north to south.LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air

SBHS's The Internship wins 2024 Southland Rockfest
SBHS's The Internship wins 2024 Southland Rockfest

17 June 2024, 12:41 AM

Southland Boys’ High School based rock band, The Internship, took out first place at this year’s Southland regional Smokefreerockquest final at the Civic Theatre on Friday night (14 Jun).The competition, now in its thirty-seventh year, is held annually throughout New Zealand and gives young high school musicians the opportunity to perform and compete in public. Regional winners go on to compete in a national final. Band member Sam Kubrycht-Ellis (Drums, Acoustic Guitar) said they were “over the moon” with their win.“We haven’t been practicing for very long and we went into this with a ‘let’s give it a crack’ attitude.""We would have been happy to walk away with nothing, because we had so much fun and enjoyed seeing all the other talented bands.""We are really grateful for this opportunity to do what we love.” Second place in the band category went to Sounds Of Chaos from James Hargest College; Jotaro Matsuo (Saxophone), Ollie Wilkinson (Bass), Chloe Amos (Lead Guitar), Draven Booth (Lead Vocals), Lachie Calvert (Keyboard, Saxophone), Amanda Henderson (Lead Vocals), Angus Tait (Drums). They join solo-duo winners for Southland, Faith Dick from Central Southland College and Bellebirds from Maruawai College with the opportunity to submit a video of their original material for selection as one of the top 10 national finalists. For Danya Sanerivi, RQP event manager, the regional finals are a highlight of the event run. "It's fascinating to see the growth in these bands from the heats to the finals.""They really step up their game, pouring everything they've got into their performances.""It’s like they hit a new level, and you can’t help but feel proud of them." Smokefreerockquest Southland 2024 results1st Band (Smokefreerockquest) - The Internship from Southland Boys’ College2nd Band (Smokefreerockquest) - Sounds Of Chaos from James Hargest College3rd Band (Smokefreerockquest) - blxckwindow from Central Southland College1st Solo-Duo (Smokefreerockquest) - Faith Dick from Central Southland College2nd Solo-Duo (Smokefreerockquest) - Bellebirds from Maruawai CollegeMusicianship Award - Hinny Bunnage (Drums) of That Band from Maruawai CollegeMusicianship Award - Oliver White (Keyboard) of blxckwindow from Central Southland CollegeSmokefree Best Vocals Award - Faith Dick from Central Southland CollegeZM Best Song Award - Southern Stones from Menzies College

Jenny Mitchell awarded scholarship to Nashville
Jenny Mitchell awarded scholarship to Nashville

16 June 2024, 10:06 PM

Acclaimed Gore musician Jenny Mitchell is celebrating a career milestone with news last week (13 Jun) that she has been awarded a prestigious scholarship to attend Americanafest in Nashville this September.AmericanaFest is held annually in Nashville, Tennessee, and is renowned for its diverse Americana music performances, industry networking opportunities and the prestigious Americana Honors & Awards show.Mitchell, known for her heartfelt folk-inspired music, took to social media after learning of the scholarship during a car ride in Wellington."I truly cannot believe I’m typing these words... that little polka dot dress girl has been dreaming about this for a very long time," she shared."I was so hysterical," Mitchell later recalled"As long as I've been dreaming of things I could do, going to Nashville has been on that list.""So it felt like a really kind of like younger me dream.""Something that I had thought about for a long time but didn't feel like it was possible”.The scholarship, organised by the CMAA Academy of Country Music and supported by Sister Cities of Nashville, will give Mitchell the chance to connect with fellow musicians and industry professionals.Jenny Mitchell. Photo: SuppliedShe also plans to participate in co-writing sessions arranged by APRA and attend performances, including a long-awaited visit to the Grand Ole Opry.Mitchell said the opportunity would be a pivotal moment that aligned with her long-term aspirations."I'm excited to immerse myself in its vibrant music scene.""It's not just about performing but also about learning and bringing that experience back home."As Mitchell now starts to prepare for her trip, she said she remained grateful for all the support that had made her dream a reality.And in a message to other aspiring musicians Mitchell said it was all about hanging in there and playing the long game."Keep learning and looking up to those who inspire you."

Roadworks Update 17/6/24
Roadworks Update 17/6/24

16 June 2024, 9:06 PM

Please see below the areas of the Southland state highway network where you are likely to experience delays next week due to programmed works. Highways South work with traffic management in place (all with temporary speed limits):SH96 between Wreys Bush and Ohai, temporary traffic lights for pavement repairsSH99 Riverton-Wallacetown highway near Argyle-Otahuti Road, temporary traffic lights for bridge deck maintenanceSH99 Orepuki-Riverton highway near Stick Road, temporary traffic lights for drainage work (two locations)SH99 Orepuki-Riverton highway near Ward Road, temporary traffic lights for drainage workSH99 Orepuki-Riverton highway near Reilly Road, temporary traffic lights for bridge deck maintenanceSH99 Tuatapere-Orepuki highway near Fishing Camp Road, temporary traffic lights for bridge deck maintenanceSH99 Tuatapere-Orepuki highway near Block Road, temporary traffic lights for bridge deck maintenance SH99 Tuatapere-Orepuki highway near Te Tua Road, temporary traffic lights for bridge deck maintenanceSH99 Tuatapere-Orepuki highway near Te Tua Road, temporary traffic lights for drainage workSH99 Clifden highway north of Tuatapere, temporary traffic lights for bridge deck maintenance SH99 Clifden highway north of Tuatapere, temporary traffic lights for bridge deck maintenanceSH99 Clifden highway at the Waiau River, temporary traffic lights for bridge deck maintenanceSH99 Clifden highway near Clifden-Blackmount Road, temporary traffic lights for bridge deck maintenance Third party work and events with traffic management in place this week (all with temporary speed limits):SH1 Gore St Bluff, road for watermain renewal **SH1 will be closed between Slaney St and Boyne St on Tuesday 18th and Wednesday 19th with a detour via Boyne/Barrow/Slaney Streets. SH1 Clyde St Invercargill, lane drop for surfacing work in railway corridorSH6 North Road, lane drop for footpath renewalsSH6 North Road north of West Plains Road, lane shift for pavement workSH6 Dipton-Winton highway near Lady Barkly, stop/go for power pole replacementSH96 Winton-Hedgehope highway near Springhills, temporary traffic lights for pavement workSH99 Riverton-Wallacetown highway near Wrights Bush, stop/go for access workUseful links:NZTA Journeys website - https://www.journeys.nzta.govt.nz/journey-planner Freight Impact Register - https://www.nzta.govt.nz/commercial-driving/trucks-and-tow-trucks/potential-restrictions-affecting-freight/ - download and filter the region for ‘Southland’. This will indicate any upcoming work in the next fortnight which have closures, detours or width restrictions for freight.

‘Absolutely disappointed’: Councillors react as Nobby Clark faces second complaint
‘Absolutely disappointed’: Councillors react as Nobby Clark faces second complaint

14 June 2024, 4:59 AM

As Invercargill Mayor Nobby Clark faces a second code of conduct complaint, his colleagues at the council table have shared their disappointment and frustration.But some are standing by the first-term mayor, saying he’s doing a good job.This week, it was revealed a second complaint had been made against Clark in as many months, this time from an external party.It followed a complaint by councillors Ria Bond and Ian Pottinger in April for the mayor’s appearance on satirical news show New Zealand Today, where he repeated a racial slur he had drawn criticism for in 2023.Both complaints are currently undergoing a determination and investigation process, with little revealed about the most recent.The mayor declined requests for comment from Local Democracy Reporting, but did provide further information in a sit-down interview with news blog What’s On Invers.The second complaint related to comments at a meeting he attended, he said, adding he had since apologised.Five of the city’s 12 councillors have weighed in on how they view the mayor’s potential breaches of the code, offering a range of views.Councillor Alex Crackett said she was “absolutely disappointed” because the complaints took away from the good work council was doing.“At the end of the process, there’s not a lot of power in the Local Government Act to actually really penalise the member aside from public scrutiny,” she said.“It’s a bit of an unfortunate wet fish.”Councillor Steve Broad said public criticism was inevitable and it was important everyone did their best to honour the role.“I think it’s just a reminder for me as a councillor, feeling very privileged to be in this role, that we are public facing representatives and our community and our ratepayers will fairly hold us to a certain standard.”Councillor Barry Stewart took a different tack, saying the mayor was doing a good job and should be left alone, while councillor Trish Boyle felt being in public office left people vulnerable.“I have full confidence in Nobby. These codes of conduct may show that there’s reasons for concern, and so be it,” Boyle said.“As a council, we are really working collaboratively well. Even with two councillors bringing code of conduct (complaints), the work has gone on as usual.”For councillor Peter Kett, the recent issues were a chance to reflect on the fact multiple complaints had been lodged at the council over the years.He questioned what those had achieved.Councillors Ian Pottinger, Allan Arnold, Lesley Soper, Darren Ludlow and Grant Dermody all declined to comment, alongside deputy mayor Tom Campbell, while Ria Bond did not respond.It is not the first time Mayor Clark has been in the spotlight with the code of conduct.While still a city councillor in 2020, he was found to be in breach for questioning the truthfulness of then-chief executive Clare Hadley at a public meeting.The cost of that investigation was $10,000.In his interview with What’s On Invers — released on Thursday — Mayor Clark also took the opportunity to express a lack of tolerance for mainstream media, which he accused of “gaslighting”.He has recently made changes to the way he deals with media requests, asking for queries to be directed through the council’s communications team in the first instance.LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air

‘Unsightly gateway’ to Invercargill draws ire from deputy mayor
‘Unsightly gateway’ to Invercargill draws ire from deputy mayor

13 June 2024, 4:31 AM

A roundabout at the northern entrance to Invercargill has been described as “the most unsightly I’ve ever seen” by the deputy mayor.The circular structures were discussed at a council committee meeting this week where the agenda stated parks and recreation were beautifying ones at the entrance to the city.Not included on the list was the North Rd roundabout leading to Riverton/Aparima and Queenstown.Deputy Mayor Tom Campbell said he had received a number of complaints about the roundabout, which was damaging the city’s reputation.“It is the most unsightly thing you could ever imagine, and it is the gateway to the city,” he said.Because the roundabout was located in a high speed area, it came under Waka Kotahi jurisdiction.Council group manager infrastructure Erin Moogan said she had fed concerns back to the transport agency, but their role was more focused on safety than beautification.“The concern they have at the moment is they’re not particularly comfortable to hand that roundabout over given the higher speed environment, and therefore the traffic management responsibility they would be handing over in that high speed environment.”Moogan said she had pushed back, aware other council’s had taken responsibility for roundabouts on state highways.An agreement had not yet been reached, she said, while also warning that the maintenance cost to council would be “significant”.It was decided to push Waka Kotahi to maintain it to a higher level.Campbell said it was the city’s reputation that was being affected, not the transport agencies.“I think you can certainly take back to them about the reputational damage, having that as a very, very unsightly gateway to the city.”The North Rd roundabout wasn’t the only one discussed at the meeting.Councillor Ria Bond commented on the height of vegetation at Tweed St's version, saying it was creating issues by blurring the line of sight.LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air

Invercargill mayor Nobby Clark faces another code of conduct complaint
Invercargill mayor Nobby Clark faces another code of conduct complaint

13 June 2024, 4:00 AM

Invercargill mayor Nobby Clark, who has drawn controversy and criticism for his unapologetic use of the n-word, is facing another code of conduct complaint.In April, Invercargill city councillors Ria Bond and Ian Pottinger filed a code of conduct complaint against the mayor after his appearance on Guy Williams' satirical news show New Zealand Today.The council has now confirmed a second complaint was made against Clark by an external party."I can confirm a complaint under the Invercargill City Council code of conduct has been lodged by the chief executive Michael Day. The complaint was made by an external party against mayor Nobby Clark," the council said."This is in addition and separate to the code of conduct complaint lodged against the mayor by councillors Pottinger and Bond."Both code of conduct complaints are currently following the process of determination and investigation of complaints. Upon completion of the independent investigation the reports will be dealt with in accordance with the process set out in the code of conduct."Clark previously told RNZ the investigation into Bond and Pottinger's complaint was a distraction he did not need.During his interview with Williams - described as "a train wreck" by one of his elected members - he defended previous instances where he has used the n-word and again repeated the slur.Clark first courted controversy last year when he used the word at an Art Foundation event, supposedly to make a point around "tolerance" and "freedom of expression" within the art world.He doubled-down on the matter during his appearance on the 21 March episode of New Zealand Today."If you had some rap music that come in, where every second word was n***, would that be okay? Certainly not to me," Clark said."Would you allow me to stop that."Clark claimed to hate the term but again used the slur when citing the name of an Invercargill street gang."It's offensive to people."He also asked Williams if he was gay."You (Williams) tend to be leaning towards minority groups," Clark proposed."I'm not leaning towards," Williams replied."Well all right bent over towards them," Clark quipped.Bond and Pottinger said the "mayor's conduct in this interview was reprehensible"."It is our belief that mayor Clark, through his language and actions has breached council's Code of Conduct on three counts," their complaint said."The conduct caused serious harm, for example, reputation harm or brought Council into disrepute."During the interview the mayor repeatedly used the 'n' word and showed no remorse for his actions. During the interview, on one occasion, mayor Clark also flaunted a copy of the book Twisting the Treaty towards the camera. The reason we mention this is that to associate a book related to the Treaty of Waitangi within an interview concerning the use of the 'n' word, we believe, is sickening."The council's statement on the latest complaint did not include any comment from Clark.A council spokesperson confirmed Clark would not make any comment on the matter until the investigation was complete.The council, late last month, asked for all media requests for the mayor to be directed to the council's communications team."The mayor receives a large number of media queries, and this is important to ensure he can provide a timely and helpful response, and to ensure his availability when arranging phone or in-person interviews."Reproduced with permission

Scepticism for Invercargill’s push for more play
Scepticism for Invercargill’s push for more play

12 June 2024, 11:23 PM

A new Invercargill play strategy continues to receive pushback from pockets of the council not convinced about its required spend.In January, local play advocate Damien Puddle presented to elected members on the importance of play and answered questions about what he hoped to achieve in his new role.Supported by funding from Sport New Zealand, the position hoped to unlock new forms of recreation across the city beyond playgrounds and traditional organised sports.On Tuesday, council parks and recreation manager Caroline Rain presented a follow-up paper which explained public engagement for the strategy would begin this month.January's meeting saw some councillors express surprise at the need for a dedicated play advocate.On Tuesday, councillor Grant Dermody looped for another round, alleging $300,000 had been invested for the role over two years in what was “a complete waste of taxpayer’s money”.“If we invested that money in a cycling strategy, we’d get a whole lot more benefit for our community,” he said.Councillor Ria Bond also voted against receiving Tuesday's report, saying she shared similar concerns to Dermody.Not everyone shared the pair's views, however.Mana whenua representative Evelyn Cook said witnessing a man doing hopscotch on the footpath reminded her of what play once looked like.“I thought, that’s what play strategy actually enables to happen, is that you actually unexpectedly come across an opportunity and revisit something from your childhood.“You don’t always have to have big structures and things like that to engage in play.”Council manager Rain said the organisation had been working to develop relationships with groups and organisations around Invercargill to uncover aspirations for play in the area.Public engagement — running from June to July — would help confirm the scope for the strategy, she said.Dermody and Bond were the only councillors to vote against receiving the paper.Puddle completed his PhD in parkour at the University of Waikato in 2019.Prior to taking the role in Invercargill last September, he held a similar position at Hamilton City Council where he said he successfully embedded play into strategic plans and policies.An Invercargill City Council spokesperson has clarified Sport New Zealand’s funding for the work and role is $170,000, not $300,000. It is not funded by the council.LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air

Road funding a boost for Southland's economy
Road funding a boost for Southland's economy

12 June 2024, 10:04 PM

An almost 40 percent increase in Southland pothole prevention funding is a massive boost for the province’s regional economic growth, Invercargill MP Penny Simmonds says.“Southland’s current funding allocation for local road pothole prevention is $52,260,919. That will increase by $20.6 million to $72,923,233 for the 2024-27 funding round, a massive 39.5 percent increase.“This is a huge boost which reflects a significant investment by the Government in our regional economy, because our roads are our link to the rest of the country and the world, getting our goods and produce to market.“The money will be distributed across local council to get roads up to the safe and reliable standards that Southlanders expect.“To receive this kind of investment in our province, at a time when budgets are tight, is a real win for the Southland region and a sign that this Government is committed to rebuilding our economy.“It’s also great news for Southlanders, who have expressed concern to me about the poor state of our roads – with potholes a major safety issue.“Southland has about 2000 Km’s of roading, which is a huge area to maintain. I would like to think that this funding will take pressure off local councils and ratepayers at a time when people are struggling and funding is tight.“This is all about getting Southlanders and freight, where they need to go, as quickly and safely as possible – it’s a real win for the province.“The $72,923,233, will be distributed by NZTA, and will be ringfenced, rather than used on a list of projects meaning the money will be specially applied to resealing, rehabilitation, and drainage maintenance to improve our local roads.”Published by arrangement

$29M Homer Tunnel upgrade now complete
$29M Homer Tunnel upgrade now complete

12 June 2024, 3:05 AM

Fiordland's Homer Tunnel has finally had its $29 million upgrade completed, just as tourist numbers are forecast to return to pre-covid levels, with the most visual improvement being a new avalanche shelter at its eastern entrance.The finished eastern entrance to the Homer Tunnel with its unique artwork. Photo: NZTAThe Homer Tunnel is part of State Highway 94 - the Milford Road - which is the only road access to Piopiotahi Milford Sound - one of Aotearoa New Zealand's major tourist attractions.The new shelter, part of a $29 million government project to improve the safety and resilience of the Milford Sound portal, was started in November 2022 and replaces an earlier 70-year-old shelter that had been largely demolished due to repeated rock falls and avalanches.Other work completed as part of the project includes radar and incident detection cameras, speakers and lighting, an upgraded power supply, cabling protection, in-tunnel barrier and in-road sensors.During demolition of the existing 70-year-old avalanche shelter, the Homer Tunnel's original 1953 stonework was revealed. Photo: NZTAAn additional traffic lane at the eastern entrance and improvements to the microwave/repeater site has also been completed, along with a tunnel plant equipment room - buried into the ground for both protection and aesthetics.NZTA Waka Kotahi Project Manager Chris Collins said the remoteness of the site and the weather had been the project's major issue."With an annual rainfall of about seven meters a year, it is a challenging site."The design was also unique, not only because it ran out into a valley - instead of hard against a hill like most overseas shelters, but also because the design had to work around an operating road, Collins said.He said the use of precast units - for fast installation - had helped minimise the disruption of traffic going through to Milford and the tourist operations."It was a complicated exercise in the design to get that all right.""[It] was all done on a computer. And that resolved all the issues so that when it got to site, it was just like building a Lego set.""It all went back together nicely, so that was a major achievement," he said.Collins said they had chosen night-time to close the road for operations in order to not inconvenience tourism operators or tourists and had used the Milford Road Alliance networks to keep locals informed."That worked extremely well and [we] got compliments back about that," Collins said.Collins said he definitely had a sense of pride for everyone who worked on the project."We're all extremely proud of it and proud how easy that design worked and went together."It's a one off. It's a very unique structure - around the world even - because of where and how it sits within avalanche zones.""Avalanches around the world are measured on a scale that goes from one to five. And in the past at the Homer Tunnel they measure them as five pluses. So it's a structure to stay within a huge potential avalanche zone."Precast structures are put into place as part of the Homer Tunnel upgrade. Photo: NZTAMilford Sound Tourism CEO Haylee Preston said the tunnel was now looking world class and anything that improved safety for those visiting or living in Milford was positive.Preston said thanks should also go to those who call Milford Sound home because they were the ones that had faced the majority of the disruption during the upgrade."They've just had to really plan, because with the closures at six o'clock at night, they had to make sure that they were back in early for [their] shifts.""Some nights they weren't able to access their house or get home," she said.Preston said she expected up to 750,000 people would visit Milford Sound this year - up to 90% of pre-covid rates, while Winter (July - September) bookings already suggesting numbers would hit pre-covid levels.

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