Plans for a $50 million gondola from Queenstown’s Remarkables Park to the iconic Remarkables mountain range can be unveiled today.
The 9.8km gondola, the longest in Australasia, is proposed by Remarkables Park Town Centre developer Porter Group Ltd.
It will dock with NZSki’s new ski field base building, which opened this year and was designed with the gondola in mind.
A consent will be lodged with the council early next year - and the gondola could open by the end of 2018.
Porter Group chairman Alastair Porter expects the gondola will carry several hundred thousand passengers a year.
“We live in a world where tourism is highly competitive, and it’s extremely important for New Zealand to continue to invest in major tourist infrastructure to keep refreshing and enhancing our international appeal.”
Comprising 140 eight-seater cabins, the Leitner Poma-designed gondola will lift off next to Porter Group’s proposed Frankton conference centre.
It will then run across and alongside the Kawarau River, then head up the Rastus Burn Valley to The Remarkables ski field’s new base building - a 27-minute journey.
Designed as a sightseeing attraction in its own right, it also offers an alternative route to the 13km Remarkables ski field access road, not only for skiers and snowboarders but also sightseers, climbers and mountain bikers throughout the rest of the year.
Porter stresses that the gondola avoids the iconic western face of the Remarkables, which his company owns access to.
A year ago, Porter Group bought the balance of Kawarau River Station, since renamed Queenstown Park Station, which the gondola will traverse.
“It’s the longer route [by 3km] but we think it provides the greatest scenery and it best preserves the environment.”
Porter says almost 70 per cent of the gondola route passes over his company’s land - the higher Rastus Burn Valley is on Department of Conservation land.
“I don’t think it will be particularly controversial because Queenstown is a tourist town - in fact it’s NZ’s most important tourist destination, and the Queenstown council has previously approved gondolas.
He adds: “If we want people to come here, then we have to be prepared to show them the environment.”
Porter started planning the project in 2006, set it aside during the global financial crisis, then dusted it off again two years ago.
Porter hopes to lodge a resource consent application early next year.
A DoC concession will also be needed.
Allowing for an 18-month construction process, Porter says the gondola could open in the summer of 2018/19.
The consent process is estimated to cost up to $500,000.
Porter doesn’t believe his gondola will compete with Skyline Queenstown’s iconic gondola in the centre of town.
“Do one and tourists will want to do the other, especially as both have wonderful views but in opposite directions.”
He doesn’t accept his plan is ambitious - he calls it “visionary”.
“It’s a vision that we have worked on for many years and haven’t embarked on lightly.”
Porter believes the gondola and adjacent convention centre will spur more hotel and retail development at Remarkables Park.
There’d also be handy access from downtown Queenstown - with visitors able to take a Remarkables Park jetboat from a Queenstown Bay wharf to its proposed riverside village on the Kawarau River.
The combined trip, Porter says, would be “an unforgettable tourist experience”.