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RAL’s licence application to continue to operate

RAL’s licence application to continue to operate the Whakapapa Ski Field has been approved in principle

Ruapehu Alpine Lifts is delighted to have received approval in principle to the granting of a new licence for the company to continue operating the Whakapapa Ski field on Mt Ruapehu for a 60 year term, with an initial 30 years and staged further rights of extension for a further 30 years.

The proposed licence is now publicly notified for public feedback to take place over the next 40 working days.

RAL was established in 1953 and has been a constant presence on the mountain since that time contributing to the stewardship of this World Heritage site, operating both the Whakapapa and Turoa ski areas within the Tongariro National Park.

Murray Gribben, Chair of RAL, said: “The licence includes all the existing activities, buildings and structures and new plans that have previously been approved for construction. The proposed licence also runs for an initial period of 30 years (as did the previous one) with six extensions for further periods of five years. This structure enables our performance to be reviewed at regular intervals once the first time period has run and is a powerful tool to enable us to provide the ongoing investment in the major infrastructure required to operate a ski area to a high standard.

The model we operate under is world- leading and perfect for this important site, we have 4,000 shareholders, all keen skiers passionate about the mountain, but as a Public Benefit Entity all profits are reinvested in the maintenance and further development of facilities at the ski areas for the benefit of the public and to promote snow sports on Ruapehu.

RAL is a key contributor to employment in the region and contributes $15 million annually to local GDP from its mountain operations as well as substantially boosting the off-mountain economy in regional tourism and recreational activities. Ngati Tuwharetoa has provided provisional support for RAL to continue to operate on the mountain and we are currently working on development of a relationship agreement to reflect our shared values.

Our operating model not only works well for this location it also means, with no profit-making business imperative from shareholders, we can be prudent financial managers and also focus on preserving and protecting the cultural values and environment within the Park,” Murray Gribben said.
The Whakapapa Ski area is an important part of the recreational mix enabling people to enjoy the natural values of the park, with the ski area occupying less than 1% of the total land area and attracting 20-30% of all visitors.

The new application had to be made due to a court decision in 2013, Fuller Bay of Islands Ltd against Otehei Bay Holdings, which impacted on licensing generally. The change meant RAL’s renewal option would now require the company to enter into a new licence application rather than gaining a renewal of the old one.

Murray Gribben said: “Currently with no certainty around the licence we have ceased all capital investment other than that required for health, safety and environmental reasons in order to operate the ski field. Until the licence is granted the Board is not able to make investment decisions and has had to manage the business for the past two years as if it will come to a close in 2019.

The application included our plans for the ‘Eastern Terrain Renewal Project’ that provides for the removal of three T Bar lifts, the installation of two new chairlifts and increased snowmaking – this was all approved in 2013 but had to be put on hold.”

“RAL has clear aims and aspirations for the ski area – a high quality tourism product that cements our place as New Zealand’s most visited ski area. We are excited that, with approval for a new licence, we can continue to make New Zealand’s best ski field even better.”

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