Remarks’ ‘glimmer of hope’

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NZSki’s boss says there’s a “glimmer of hope” it can still install a $16 million chairlift at Queenstown’s The Remarkables skifield this year following tentative Department of Conservation (Doc) approval.

Plans for a six-seater chairlift to replace the four-seater Sugar Bowl lift for this ski season appeared doomed when DoC’s decision didn’t come before NZSki’s deadline last month.

Last Friday, however, DoC issued a 75-page ‘decision support document’ which NZSki’s Paul Anderson says looks favourable.

Anderson – who notes his company’s committed to moving trails from sensitive areas – is now hopeful DoC can issue an ‘affected party approval’, though he doesn’t know when that’ll happen.

Armed with that, he expects Otago Regional and Queenstown Lakes District Councils can finalise their own approvals fairly quickly.

After that, he’d talk timeframes with lift installer Doppelmayr NZ. He’s been told it needs five months to commission the chairlift which would take the job into the ski season, due to start June 8. He’d see if it could put more staff on the job to speed it up, for example. Another idea might be to start the project from the top.

“Once you get into March and April, you’ve go a lot more inclement weather up on the mountain to deal with. We’ve got to be realistic – we don’t want to introduce unnecessary risks into the project so if it’s going to go too far into the ski season and adversely affect our guests, then we’ll say ‘no’.”

Anderson says they’ll leave the current lift, on a different line, in place, just in case. The new chairlift’s due at Dunedin’s Port Chalmers “pretty soon”.

NZSki expected to be on the job by now, after submitting its application to DoC on August 2, and after earlier indications it would be below the threshold for notification.

DoC, however, decided it needed to be notified – regional director Aaron Fleming said no official advice was given till the application was received.

“It was NZSki’s decision to take on the commercial risk of ordering the chairlift and marketing the chairlift and ski trail to its customers before completing the approval process,” he said.