Arthur’s Pass residents have been picketing the roadside, calling for the village’s visitor centre to be upgraded and reopened.
The 62-year-old visitor centre was closed in 2019 after it was found to need earthquake strengthening. At the time, DOC said work would start later that year, but nothing has been done.
A temporary visitor centre has been set-up in a portacom nearby, but the building is too small to accommodate the old visitor centre’s museum collection and no decision has been made on whether the old building will be restored or a new building built.
Save Park HQ spokesperson Peter Neale said the community would prefer the old building to be strengthened as a new building would likely be too small to accommodate the museum collection, which included an 1800s stagecoach and other artefacts.
“We just want DOC to get on with it and repair it,” Neale said.
Neale was also concerned that the number of DOC staff in the park would continue to reduce unless a larger facility was built.
“It’s really important to have that face-to-face contact with people who are going into the mountains so they can impart some local knowledge.”
The saga of upgrading the building has been stretching on for more than a decade. It was found to be not up to code in 2011 following the Christchurch earthquakes. Some minor work was done immediately, but plans to bring it up to code have been repeatedly pushed back.
DOC acting heritage and visitors director Tim Bamford would not provide a timeline for when work would start, or even when a decision would be made on the visitor centre. Bamford said work was “ongoing”, but “DOC remains committed to providing a visitor centre in Arthur’s Pass”.
“We expect the chosen option will focus on providing information about experiences in Arthur’s Pass National Park and the surrounding areas, and visitor safety information, and would be unlikely to include museum-style displays or significant amounts of interpretation,” Bamford said.