The Grey District Council has refused to enter into a public debate about a plan to close a road near the Gloriavale Christian Community, as the issue heads to the Environment Court.
In a statement today, West Coast Fish and Game manager Dean Kelly said the road provided crucial public access to the Haupiri River and hot pools.
Heaphy Road ends on Gloriavale-owned land, which the public must cross in order to continue.
In May last year, Gloriavale and the Department of Conservation signed a memorandum of understanding granting access through the private property. However, in November, the council agreed to close a section of the road, despite nine public objections, leaving the issue to be settled in court.
Mr Kelly said today the council could "save all involved significant funds as both sides are set to fight the road stopping in the Environment Court".
The council's legal costs will be covered by Gloriavale.
Council chief executive Paul Pretorius said the principles of the dispute had already been disclosed and were public knowledge.
"The court will decide these matters and this effort to a public 'debate' is irresponsible," Mr Pretorius said.
Mr Kelly said the existing road was formed with public funds in 1906, however a council staff report in November said it was not legalised.
"We believe that the Grey District Council and Land Information New Zealand have been badly advised that the road is not used by the public, and effectively 'goes nowhere,"' Mr Kelly said.
The report also noted a 1933 survey plan for the road was prepared but not registered.
Mr Kelly said alternative access to the valley runs through an impassable white pine swamp and the council had given no indication of plans to put a road through that area.
On Tuesday, Gloriavale Christian Community leader Fervent Stedfast told the Greymouth Star "genuine members of the public are always welcome".
Mr Stedfast said it was incorrect that hunters had been denied access.
"Hunters [were] shooting in the area at that time, and these two people were advised that for safety reasons it would be better at that particular time to find another route, but that the decision was up to them. We don't want anyone getting shot on our area.
"The previous owners of this property told us that they always gave this same advice."
Mr Stedfast said Gloriavale had many visitors, including some from overseas.
"We want them all to feel safe and welcome, and many come back time and time again, and say they really enjoyed coming here. We must ensure their safety while they are here. Surely this is only a reasonable and sensible requirement," he said.