Skyline’s refusal to provide customer parking Queenstown’s most prominent tourist ride is in the political gun.
The tourism giant’s gondola operation, which attracted 787,000 people last year, will almost triple in capacity after a proposed $60 million upgrade.
Yet it provides just two coach parks outside its bottom building and relies on public parking in Brecon Street and surrounds.
Consent documents reveal it wants to rely on the status quo and that’s got mayoral hopefuls riled.
Four of the five candidates – excluding prominent business-man Jim Boult – are sounding a political horn.
Film director Roger Tompkins says Skyline “must” provide parking.
“It’s completely inappropriate that while we’re trying to deal with parking in town they’re effectively forcing more vehicles into a narrowing number of carparks that are available to visitors.”
Kinloch’s Al Angus says like other businesses, Skyline needs to supply carparking for customers.
“They can’t rely on the ever-diminishing ratepayers’ car-parks.”
Deputy mayor Lyal Cocks, of Wanaka, says: “Without pre-empting the resource consent process, I think they should be required to provide some parking, noting their location on the edge of the town centre.
“But more importantly they should be advertising alternative ways of getting to the gondola rather than by car.”
Former councillor and catering king John Mann says the scale of the redevelopment means the status quo no longer applies.
“As a responsible corporate citizen they should be looking at carparking.”
Meanwhile, former Christchurch International Airport boss and Shotover Jet owner Jim Boult veers from the political pack, saying Skyline shouldn’t be forced to provide parking.
“If you’re going to do that, you open the door to forcing every other business in Queenstown to do the same.”
Skyline Enterprises boss Jeff Staniland says Skyline’s building for the next 30 years and “not everyone’s going to arrive at once”.
Queenstown has a transport issue, not just a parking issue, he says, which will take a “whole of Queenstown” response.
Skyline is easily accessible by pedestrians, he says, pointing to surveys that suggest most customers walk to the gondola.
Asked if he thinks extra gondola riders will add to central Queenstown’s congestion, Stani-land says: “But are they coming to Queenstown or are they coming to Skyline? If we do nothing you’ll probably have more visitors. You can’t pin it all on one thing.”
With upgraded 10-seater gondola cars, about 3000 people an hour will be whizzed to Skyline’s expanded top terminal, up from 1100-an-hour now.
Under the refurb, carpark near the bottom terminal will be cut from 77 spaces to 57.
However, lockers, cycle parks and showers will be provided to staff, to encourage them to bike or walk to work.
Consultants Bartlett Consulting (see sidebar) dismiss “significant” concerns over transport, saying the upgrade will result in a “minor adverse cumulative effect”.
Public submissions on Skyline’s consent application close on October 5.
Analysis: Traffic trouble
You could drive a tourist coach through the holes in Skyline’s expert traffic modelling.
A report prepared by Bartlett Consulting concludes only 90 parks are used by Skyline guests at peak times each day, rising to an estimated 140 parks a day by 2024-25.
However, a customer sample estimating 37 per cent of customers use cars is “small” and, the report warns, “should be treated with caution”.
(Skyline boss Jeff Staniland could not immediately provide the sample sizes.)
Secondly, traffic count data in 2010, 2012 and 2014 have been taken from the months of March, May, June and September – avoiding the Christmas/New Year peak and the rush of visitors in January and February.
(Staniland: “There’s nothing intentional in that.”)
Lastly, the report is based on an average annual increases of three per cent a year, when gondola customers have risen 31 per cent in the last two years, from 600,000 in 2013 to 787,000 last year.
Bartlett also wrote a traffic assessment for skydiving simulator iFly, just down Brecon St from Skyline. While Bartlett says iFly – as a commercial activity in the ‘higher density residential zone’ – must provide 26 carparks under council rules, it says Skyline, as a tourist and recreation activity within the ‘high density residential zone’, has no defined parking minimum.
IFly will provide 13 parks – that’s 13 more than Skyline.
Brecon St facelift
Skyline has briefed design and engineering experts on a new concept plan for the head of Brecon Street.
Skyline Enterprises boss Jeff Staniland says the plan was triggered by questions over how its new bottom terminal fits in with the rest of the street.
“You’ve really got to look at the whole of the street. We’ve got some ideas that we’re getting designed and then we’d like to talk to other people on the street and the council and see what the best thing is for something we can all do together.”
Rather than losing carparks to landscaping or clever features, Staniland says the company will try to increase the street’s limited car and coach parks.
Round-the-clock build plea
Skyline wants permission to work through the night.
Consent documents for its $60 million gondola upgrade show the tourism company – which has had “insufficient time” to get written approval from neighbours – wants flexibility to dig and build 24 hours a day.
Work will last up to 18 months and include blasting, rock-breaking and excavation, with thousands of cubic metres of soil and rock to be removed.
A full gondola shutdown is expected in the first half of 2018.
Skyline Enterprises boss Jeff Staniland says it doesn’t know how often it might work through the night because the construction methodology has not been developed.
The documents flag potential noise and drilling effects on tourism rival Ziptrek Ecotours and wildlife at the neighbouring Kiwi Birdlife Park.