Pressure is mounting on Queenstown's council to seal one of the Wakatipu's most scenic but hazardous unsealed roads – and a magnet for increasing numbers of tourists driving to Lord of the Rings film sites.
Tourism New Zealand’s Kevin Bowler said councils need to consider sealing more sections of popular roads in and around tourism hotspots.
The 10 kilometre road past Glenorchy, from the Rees Bridge to Paradise, is considered "very, very dangerous" and "will cause serious injury or death over the upcoming Chinese New Year", Queenstown line producer Gary Strangman said.
Local farmer Jim Veint said cars and even buses are continually coming off the road.
Councilor Craig Ferguson said there are genuine concerns. The council has recently erected 70km/h signs.
Strangman, who raised his concerns with Queenstown's film office, said drivers take up the crown of the road and risk sliding into deep culverts to make room for oncoming or passing vehicles.
"If you hit a verge, you're either going to bounce back into a car going the other way, or flip over.
"It's dangerous for people that are used to driving on gravel,” he said.
In a submission to last year's annual plan, Veint wrote "I am sure there is no other road in New Zealand that has more accidents and injuries per car that travels it. A big percentage of drivers on this road have never driven gravel roads before."
The local council has put down Otto seal in front of Veint's and neighbour Geoff Thomson's driveways, but both farmers are urging the council to seal the whole road. A large number of vehicles turn around before reaching Paradise.
Thomson said this summer's dry weather has heightened the problem.
The fines in the gravel are blown away, leaving stony, rough corrugations and visitors often crawl along at 30km/h.
Though the road is graded every so often, "a few days later it's back to where it started", he said.
Tourism New Zealand has heavily promoted the country's Lord of the Rings film sites, but Bowler said he is unaware of the road's current problems.
"Many of our international visitors won't have experience driving on unsealed roads, so there's no doubt we need to consider sealing more sections of popular unsealed roads in and around tourism hotspots like Queenstown.
"With growing numbers of international visitors choosing to self-drive, we need to ensure road conditions are of an appropriate quality to ensure safe journeys for all road users,” he said.
Ferguson, a council representative on the Glenorchy Community Association, said "there are genuine concerns [about the Paradise road] which are not going to be easy to resolve".
Council staff will address the issue at the next association meeting.
Infrastructure boss Peter Hansby said sealing the road is not in the council's long-term plan.
The project would require NZ Transport Agency funding, and its investment outside roads of national significance has dropped off.
"We would estimate the costs to complete a full seal extension would be in the order of $250,000 per kilometre,” Hansby said.