Retreat owner in the SH6 closure zone: 'It's worse than Covid-19' – Stuff

Peak View Retreat owner Natalia McAllansmith describes her current state of mind as “stressed out, exhausted and desperate”.
Bookings to her and her husband Carl’s luxury accommodation have all been cancelled in the wake of SH6’s seven-week closure to fix damage from August’s floods.
Not all rental car companies would allow travel on the forestry roads to the property, she said.
The escorted convoy times on SH6, by which locals can leave and return to their jobs or school, wouldn’t work for visitors who had booked other tours and activities in the top of the south.
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Natalia stressed that they were very grateful to Ngāti Koata for the use of the forestry road.
“We do really appreciate having an alternate access and so many convoys a day,” she said.
“They just didn’t sadly work for all of our booked guests.”
Natalia said the highway had one lane open that was being used by crews to travel in and out every day, and if their guests had been allowed access to that route, they wouldn’t have lost so many bookings and so much income.
“We’re looking at losing everything to be honest, absolutely everything. We can’t survive two months with no income when we’ve already had the February floods, and the August floods, where we were shut down for three weeks.
“This year has been worse than the two years of Covid-19.”
Insurance would not cover road closures and business interruption for loss of access, she said.
The McAllansmiths applied for help from the Mayoral Relief Fund and were given “a tenth” of what their losses were.
November was meant to be their second-busiest month, in a season that stretched until March – the period of the year that got them through the quiet winter.
“We’re small communities, but we still exist. We still work hard. We run our businesses. Yes, we live remotely, but we rely on the road, for this to be out of our control – it just doesn’t seem fair.”
The McAllansmiths have paired up with a Nelson company called Wine Art Wilderness, which has a fleet of “beautiful” Mercedes SUV vehicles.
The owner has told them he is happy to do the transfer through the forestry roads and they’ve put together three night packages with a local chef option.
They’re hoping that the pivot to try and attract people to sign up for a staycation will yield some bookings through a “very hard” period.
Waka Kotahi regional manager lower North Island/top of the south Mark Owen said Waka Kotahi understood the “significant impact” the closure of SH6 was having on local residents and businesses and appreciated that it was a source of frustration for them.
“Contractors are working hard to get it reopened to traffic by 18 December. However, there is a significant amount of work that needs to be done to restore the route,” Owen said.
“The decision to fully close the route was not taken lightly and was the best option available under these extreme circumstances.”
Owen said the August floods left the road badly damaged and at severe risk of even worse damage should another major weather event occur.
“That ran the risk of the road being closed for months, leaving residents and businesses with no, or severely limited, access over a much longer period. This was not a risk we were prepared to take.”
While there was access on SH6 for road crews and contractors, it was not possible to have public access through the work sites, he said.
“The road needs significant cutting out and rebuilding for the five worst sites. The road is too narrow at these sites to allow people to pass through safely while we have crews and equipment in place.
“This, and the significant culvert upgrades, along with all the other work required, would make having the road open to traffic during the repairs logistically challenging.”
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