A park and ride is on the cards for Franz Josef Glacier and could be in place by next summer.
Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage told the Tourism Aotearoa Summit the concept had worked well for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, where it was introduced last year, and park rangers at Franz Josef were becoming full time parking attendants.
“Last summer the rangers there were spending more time managing road cones and traffic flows and preventing road rage when people couldn’t find a car park, than spending time interacting with visitors,” Sage said.
“DOC has to explore new ways of dealing with traffic congestion. Simply building more and more car parks isn’t sustainable.”
The Minister said DOC is working with businesses and stakeholders and the Franz Josef community to establish long-term solutions.
DOC operations manager for South Westland, Wayne Costello, said last year just over 700,000 people visited Franz Josef Glacier.
“An estimated two-thirds of these visited during summer,” Costello said. “We have hired additional staff ready to manage the car park for this summer and we have re-organised the parking system so that we can fit more cars and campervans in.”
Costello confirmed a shuttle service from Franz Josef township is one of the options currently under consideration for better management of peak tourist numbers, and he expected the implementation of the ‘best options’ by next summer (2019/20).
Meanwhile, visitor pressures are likely to increase even more at Franz Josef, since the Fox Glacier access road was washed out in last week’s flooding. A similar washout in January required a two month, $1 million repair job. Costello says repair plans for the latest damage are still to be confirmed.
A park and ride is also being mooted for Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. Park users have until February 2019 to make submissions on that proposal.