Uncertainty over Falls closure

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JOHN.COSGROVE@nullcluthaleader.co.nz

The McLean Falls track closure has stumped some Catlins residents.

A business operator near Tuatuku is amazed at the hasty closure of the McLean Falls track.

The McLean Falls Motor Camp and Whistling Frog cafe owner Paul Bridson said he was unsure when the Department of Conservation (Doc) would reopen the track.

Early on March 14 a tourist advised them of a large landslip at the falls.

“He said he had narrowly missed being hit by one of the boulders, so I raced up to the track and eventually found that a rockfall from above the falls had come down and destroyed the public viewing platforms at the base of lower falls.”

The twin set of falls is listed in many websites and brochures as one of the must-see New Zealand waterfalls.

“The damaged section of the track is right up at the end of the 20 minute-long walk from the car park and there was a lot of damage,” he said.

Mr Bridson said because rocks were still falling he had erected a light barrier at the base of the steps section, known locally as the chute, and then erected another barrier slightly further down the track, advising people of the danger ahead.

“I wanted to keep people out of the area until we could call Doc in Invercargill,” he said.

Following that call, Mr Bridson was surprised to see Doc close the entire length of the track.

“It’s only the falls end of the track that’s damaged .

“I can see no reason why they would do that. The damage is contained at the end of the track in the chute and yet the rest of the track is untouched.”

Mr Bridson said the 22m-high cascade, named after the original settler in the area, was an essential part of the attraction of tourists to the Catlins region.

“I can’t believe they closed it – the whole track. There is so much on offer there.”

He said the 20-minute walking track was a major attraction for visitors seeking an alternative as they waited for the tide to turn at the nearby Cathedral Caves attraction.

“But with Doc closing the entire length of the track it is costing me and others money every day now, because when the tourists get to the car park and see it’s closed they get a bit grumpy.”

Doc senior ranger Brent Affleck said the risk to visitors from falling rock and vegetation was high.

The slip had inundated the track walking surface with rocks and vegetation, and also destroyed two structures near the waterfall viewing location.

He advised that their engineer would inspect the site soon and assess the hillside’s stability.

Doc advised the track had been closed from the car park and would remain so until further notice.

Mr Affleck said two Doc staff had carried out an initial assessment.

look at the extent of the landslip because of the risk from further falling rock and vegetation,” he said.

“We believe that probably a large tree has become dislodged on the steep face on true left above the waterfall.

“This tree has dragged the hillside down with it, causing the track to be inundated in two separate locations.

“I am hoping that recent rainfall will help lubricate the rock face and bring more material down on to the track.”