Get your skates on: Haast Pass, Paringa to Haast, 6-8 November 50th anniversary weekend celebrations


Les McKenzie is a West Coaster with a mission: to get as many of his former work mates and their families to Haast for the 50th Anniversary of the opening of the Paringa to Haast section of the Haast highway next month - 6 to 8 November.

Les Mackenzie

Les MacKenzie

Registrations officially closed 8 October, but late registrations will be taken until 16 October if people email (external link) the organisers soon via the web page link) or email

Part of State highway 6, linking the West Coast with Otago, the Haast Pass is one of the country’s most challenging and dynamic routes, with up to 150 mm (six inches) of rain an hour onto steep mountain passes, roads, bridges and rivers in a downpour. Annual rainfall in the Haast Pass is around 4.5 metres or 15 feet.

After the official road opening and ribbon cutting at Knights Point* in 1965 by then Prime Minister Keith Holyoake, sheltering under a large, black, Ministry of Works umbrella, within hours the road was closed at Epitaph Rift nearly three km to the south.

The kotuku or white heron, one of South Westland’s and Okarito’s main attractions, which graced the 1965 ribbon is back in place bookending the blue 2015 ribbon, printed by Hokitika company Sign Graphics. (See photo below).

Westland Otago Road Opening 50th AnniversaryLes, who now lives in Greymouth, as part of the Haast committee that has set up the official web and facebook anniversary pages, is trying to get as many photos or scans of photos as possible from people who might have them stored out of sight and unappreciated.

Les is thinking bigger than the weekend’s 50th party. He wants to get a history of the challenging road underway so the photos, which will be stored at Hokitika’s Carnegie Museum or History House in Greymouth, and the many feats of engineering ingenuity, sheer determination and camaraderie are recorded for posterity.

Les McKenzie’s connections to what is now the NZ Transport Agency and the organisations like Transit New Zealand, National Roads Board and the Ministry of Works which preceded it are many. The Transport Agency is proud to be represented by its Regional Performance Manager Pete Connors, a West Coaster, at the celebrations.

Friday 6 November at 6.00pm, Heartland World Heritage Hotel

Registration and welcome

Photo display, drinks and snacks 

Key events Saturday 7 November

11 am Re-enactment of the 1965 Opening at Knight’s Point.
1 pm Haast School food stalls and market day
4.30 pm Auction to raise funds
5.30 pm Speakers, dinner and entertainment.

The Haast Heartland World Heritage Hotel is the main venue for most events, bar the re-enactment.

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