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Big tour buses banned from 'most stunning' views of Aotearoa

Big tour buses banned from 'most stunning' views of Aotearoa
It's a view tour operators say is worth a detour, but the Lake Clearwater Hutholders Association don't want big buses rolling through the village. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Tour bus access to one of the best views in New Zealand is being restricted due to safety concerns.

Signs stating “no coaches” were placed in the Lake Clearwater hut settlement by the Ashburton District Council in June.

It came after hut holders became fed up with the impacts of the large tour buses driving through the area.

Hassle Free Tours owner Mark Gilbert has been taking visitors to destinations like Erewhon Station and the Lord of the Rings location at Mt Sunday for two decades.

The council held a hearing on the issue after Gilbert requested a review into the restrictions.

A decision was made to retain the signs, but with an amendment stating no large coaches (over 20 seats) and to form a working group to discuss alternative options. The decision would be reviewed in 12 months.

Gilbert and other tour companies stop at the edge of Lake Clearwater for a photo opportunity.

“This vantage point offers our guests a breathtaking view down Lake Clearwater, which I personally consider one of the most stunning spots in all of New Zealand.

“If there is another way we could get to that viewpoint we would drive it tomorrow,” he said.

Buses must drive through the lake settlement to get to the view.

The Lake Clearwater Hutholders Association contacted the council in February airing its concerns, seeking a restriction of “heavy vehicles using these roads”.

Association committee member Colin Pearson said the buses create dust, noise, safety issues, and road damage.

He said the association doesn't want to cut all access, but they dont't want big buses driving through the settlement.

In response to the request, the council installed “no tour coaches” signs on June 27 on Mount D’Archiac St, Mount Possession Street, and Mount Jollie Street.

It means the tour coaches are required to park at the Lake Camp car park and walk around 300m through the settlement to the lakeside viewpoint.

Council owns the land occupied by the 180 baches in the settlement.

Mount Possession Street is a legal road while the signs located at Mount D’Archiac Drive and Mount Jollie Street are on private council freehold land.

As the landowner, the council has the discretion to impose any restrictions on the use of that land.

The decision to retain the restriction of large buses but to allow the smaller buses was seen as a compromise.

Councillor Russell Ellis warned it may be a compromise that doesn’t suit either party.

“Twenty-seat buses sounds a good idea but if you end up three times as many of them, how does the dust problem go away?”

The majority of councillors were in favour of the adjusted restrictions but wanted to see the association and the tour providers work together on solutions.

By Jonathan Leask