A dispute between outdoor recreation clubs and skifield operator NZSki over road access to the Remarkables range is over.
In what is being described as a “reluctant compromise”, the Queenstown company last week offered to provide a free bus service up the mountain at weekends from February 21.
NZSki chief executive Paul Anderson says he and Federated Mountain Clubs (FMC) president Robin McNeill have agreed to “consider the logistics” of the service, and he asked the club to indicate its preferred operating times.
McNeill says the club has agreed to the offer in principle, but will raise the issue of whether the bus will operate on public holidays.
“It’s a long way short of what we would like, but we respect and appreciate that NZSki has now recognised the value recreationalists put on that land.
“We have conceded a lot, but I think in the end this is the best way to get practical access.”
The deal comes a week after outdoor recreation clubs stepped up their campaign against the company, which closed the road to all but concession holders from January 5.
NZSki cited safety concerns at heavy vehicle traffic servicing the construction of a new base building for the skifield.
The road provides the only means of vehicle access to walking tracks and climbing areas in the Remarkables Conservation Area and Rastus Burn Recreation Reserve.
The Queenstown Climbing Club began a petition on Monday calling on Minister of Conservation Maggie Barry to ensure “guaranteed, year-round road access to the Remarkables Conservation Area”.
The petition had received about 648 signatures by Sunday afternoon.
Queenstown climber and New Zealand Alpine Club Central Otago spokesman Erik Bradshaw says the agreement was a “reluctant compromise” that will sit uneasily with both sides.
The bus service will cost NZSki money, while outdoor enthusiasts are giving up the freedom to visit the area whenever they like.
A protest planned for February 22 is cancelled, and he expects the clubs to focus their efforts on “making sure we fill up the buses with as many people as possible and enjoy going up there”.
Anderson rejects the suggestion the company erred by failing to consult outdoor groups before announcing the road’s closure in December.
“We have to call it how we saw it. We’ve seen a number of near-misses on the road, and we didn’t think that simply putting on a bus would be an acceptable solution for the clubs.”
He denies the impasse had generated negative publicity for the company.
“There’s a fringe, quite extreme group that have been criticising the decision we’ve made.
“Most of the feedback I’ve had has been very supportive of the company and its position on health and safety.”
Otago Daily Times