From the 1850s people in Canterbury sought an easy pass over the Southern Alps to the West Coast. There were a number of traditional Māori routes (all given European names), but they were thought too difficult for a road. Following the gold rush in 1864, a road was hastily constructed over Arthur’s Pass, and completed in 1866.
Haast Pass was identified as a possible route at about the same time, but was too far south to give access to the West Coast goldfields. A road over the pass, connecting Otago to the West Coast, was not opened until the 1960s. In the north, Lewis Pass had long been known as a Māori route and miners’ track, but was not opened as a road until the 1930s.
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