A surge in the number of helicopters buzzing Franz Josef Glacier township is being welcomed by locals, despite the increased noise.

The Department of Conservation has granted a temporary concession to Franz Josef Glacier Guides to add up to 30 extra flights a day after the foot route on to the ice became too dangerous.

Over the past six months the company has been monitoring a hole in the ice that has created a large arc on the lower reaches of the glacier. It was caused by the river underneath creating a cavity, which causes the ice to slowly collapse in on itself, but effectively rules out foot access to the ice.

Ngai Tahu Tourism regional general manager Fraser Leddie said a new tour, the Ice Explorer, was created after it was decided the glacier was currently too unstable for walks.


"The glacier has been advancing and retreating over the last 100 years and ongoing changes are part of the natural cycle of a glacier. At all times, the safety of our staff and customers is paramount and this new trip is a proactive response to the ever changing environment at Franz Josef."

Mr Leddie said the new guided trip took tourists on a short trip directly on to the glacier by helicopter from the township, bypassing the potentially unstable terminal face area.

Glacier Country Tourism Group chairman Marcel Fekkes said he had "no problem whatsoever" with helicopter noise in the township.

"There are more flights going up to the glacier, but not to a point where it's disturbing," he said.

"The glacier guides are an important part of the make-up of our town ... and it's important to have access to the glacier, it's important to the tourism industry."

A spokesman from the Franz Josef Glacier Top 10 Holiday Park said they had not had any complaints from clients about helicopter noise.

"It's part of the business industry here."

The Landing Bar manager Phil Johnson said restaurant staff had not fielded any complaints from tourists about the noise.


"It doesn't worry us at all."

- The Hokitika Guardian