Original Skyline managing director Jon Dumble (left) and
former Queenstown mayor Warren Cooper reminisce as they
ride on the gondola on Friday. Photo by Tracey Roxburgh.
It was one of the most innovative ideas in New Zealand
tourism and in the 45 years since the Skyline gondola carried
its first passengers to the top of Bob's Peak, the company
behind it has achieved more than anyone dreamed possible.
Saturday marked the 45th anniversary of Skyline Enterprises'
gondola, officially opened on November 17, 1967 by Tourism
Department deputy manager Mr R.S. Austin, who claimed it was
one of the best potential "tourist traps" he had seen.
One of the original gondola cars climbs Bob's Peak above
Queenstown in the early days. Photo supplied.
The company, which has diversified its operations at the
summit of the peak and its income streams over the years, will
welcome its 14-millionth visitor on the gondola this summer.
Original managing director Jon Dumble told the Otago Daily
Times public opinion was "50-50" when the idea of the
southern hemisphere's first detachable gondola was floated.
"There was a strong feeling that it would not be successful,
because it was completely innovative.
"The mayor at the time [George Cochrane] was very dubious."
The gondola's proponents - led by Hylton Hensman and Cliff
Broad - had to negotiate with both the Government and the
Queenstown Borough Council for the land, a process which was
"not easy", Mr Dumble said.
It was thought the gondola would "potter along quite happily
and make a reasonable income for those 15 original
shareholders", he said. Its backers had no inkling of how
successful the company would become.
Skyline Enterprises chairman Ken Matthews said the success of
the operation - and the company - boiled down to "a great
One of the gondola's legacies was the other business
opportunities which had opened up, allowing a diversification
of income stream and providing employment, locally,
nationally and internationally.
Former Queenstown mayor Warren Cooper - a councillor in 1967
- recalled being in the third gondola on opening day with his
wife, Lorraine, his mother and fellow councillor Reg
"I think in general the public were quite excited. It was
something very different for New Zealand and of course for
However, building the gondola in today's climate would be
difficult, if not impossible, he said.
"It seems to me that roads and tunnels and gondolas and
monorails lead people to places of great beauty, and we
should be prepared to allow people to enjoy that.
"We need more things like that and we should never allow
ourselves to run out of ideas."