Queenstown gondola building safe, says Skyline

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Queenstown’s most prominent building is structurally sound, Skyline declares, despite disgraced engineer Tony Major’s involvement in a 1994 refurb. 

Last week, Queenstown council boss Adam Feeley revealed a search of its records showed Major possibly had a hand in the engineering of two private buildings in the district. 

He refused to name them. 

Mountain Scene
can reveal Major – who was last week expelled from the national engineering body IPENZ over the 2010 Southland Stadium roof collapse – provided structural engineering design for a $6 million redevelopment at the Skyline gondola and restaurant on Bob’s Peak, above the town, in 1994. 

Skyline Enterprises chairman Mark Quickfall, who confirmed the story, says there’s nothing to worry about – a full structural assessment of the building was done in 2000. 

The following year recommended rock bolting and lateral strengthening work was completed, he assures. 

Quickfall admits had that work not been done the company would be scrambling for a fresh assessment. 

What’s important, he says, is the structural integrity of the building, not a particular engineer. 

“We’re confident the building is up to code. We’ve got no concerns. 

“We’ve obviously taken these things very seriously – we’re not just the owner of that building, we’ve got buildings in town here.” 

Quickfall, who joined the tourism company’s board in 2011 and was elected chairman in April, reveals the council flagged Major’s link with the company late last week. 

IPENZ has warned Major’s work may need re-checking after the stadium fiasco and last Friday the council closed Wanaka’s pool, another Major project, because it didn’t meet earthquake standards. 

Quake regs have become an important national issue since the deadly 2011 Christchurch quake – with the government giving building owners 15 years to meet strict new standards. 

Quickfall didn’t know if the gondola building needs further work to meet the new code, adding: “The structural engineer who did [the 2000 assessment] had to meet the requirements back at that time.” 

Major’s work on the Skyline project was noted in an October 1994 special feature in Mountain Scene. 

The development was opened by a fresh-faced Murray McCully, then associate tourism minister. 

In May 1995, some of the 1000-odd people attending a K2 Expedition Party expressed concerns over the facility’s vibrating floor.
However, then Skyline Enterprises boss Chris Reid told Mountain Scene at the time a site inspection afterwards showed no damage and that the steel-reinforced floor was built to flex. 

Quickfall says he can’t shed any light on the 1995 incident – it was well before his time – except to say any structural shortcomings would have been flagged then. 

Skyline Queenstown restaurant is actually undergoing an extensive renovation, which will be finished mid-August. 

One of the country’s busiest restaurants, Skyline caters for about 150,000 people each year. 

It’s canning the traditional buffet in favour of menus featuring Kiwi dishes with international influences. 

Chefs will be visible at live cooking stations and there’s also a new mussel bar and dessert display. 

Skyline Queenstown general manager Lyndon Thomas says the restaurant will have fancy new furnishings and decorations and a new name, which is being kept under wraps.