Boost for central North Island tourism

The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) will provide a $10 million loan to Ruapehu Alpine Lifts Ltd for the construction of a high-speed gondola on the Whakapapa ski field, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones has announced.

The development will provide a boost for tourism across the central North Island.

“The gondola will replace the National Chairlift and has capacity to safely and swiftly transport up to 2,400 passengers per hour to Knoll Ridge Café in 10 person cabins – a journey that will take five minutes,” Shane Jones said.

“The project is estimated to attract 500,000 additional visitor days by 2025, and significantly increase the number of non-skiers visiting and using the mountain’s facilities.

“Building and operating the gondola will generate 150 direct jobs and potentially a further 400 through associated activities.

“As part of a suite of other projects, this could be transformative for the central North Island and the Ruapehu district in particular. The new gondola will enhance the upper mountain at Whakapapa and allow it to become a year-round destination, providing greater certainty for employers and stable employment for local workers.

“The project is part of a broader plan to boost visitor numbers to the Ruapehu and Taupo districts, and is expected to have significant economic and social impacts in those communities.

“The project has been identified through the Manawatū-Whanganui Accelerate 25 plan and the Ruapehu Regional Visitor Development Plan as key to boosting the local economy. It is easy to see why – the economic potential is significant and Ruapehu Alpine Lifts is committed to recruiting locally.

“The Gondola has the potential to be the linchpin investment creating the ‘must do’ attraction around which other investments would work,” Shane Jones said.

Notes to editors:

The total cost of the project is $25 million with investment also coming from local Government and local investors, along with the operator, Ruapehu Alpine Lifts.

Construction begins in November and the gondola is likely to be open for business next winter. Ruapehu Alpine Lifts is a public benefit entity formed in 1953 and is the operator of New Zealand’s two largest ski areas – Whakapapa and Turoa at Mt Ruapehu.