Gondola could lead to $16.5m windfall

A $16.5 million economic windfall is predicted for the Queenstown Lakes District if the proposed gondola to twin Cardrona Valley skifield operations Snow Park and Snow Farm is built, a Wellington economist says.

Construction of the proposed $14 million gondola would create 48 jobs, plus a further 108 additional jobs as part of its ongoing operation, economic consultant Michael Copeland said in a report.

The gondola could also be a catalyst for capital investment of more than $100m as Wanaka skifield pioneers the Lee family propose to extend their Pisa Range operations into the Roaring Meg Gully.

Mr Copeland's economic study is the final piece in a drawn out resource consent process, which the Lees hope will result in them realising their vision for New Zealand's first alpine gondola.

Independent commissioners Jane Taylor and Christine Kelly requested extra evidence last month from gondola company One Black Merino Ltd (OBM), because they were uncertain as to the economic benefits a gondola would provide to the Lakes district.

The request for the additional information came after a three-month deliberation as the commissioners considered the Lees' claims - made last October during a resource consent hearing in Wanaka - about the gondola's positive effects.

OBM director John Lee said the extra evidence cost ‘‘several thousand dollars'' in consultancy fees on top of their initial application costs of $400,000.

Mr Copeland said the gondola would accommodate and stimulate future growth to the Lees' Pisa Range skifield operations ‘‘through a more desirable, safer, and sustainable method of access''.

His study considered the economic spin-offs of the proposed gondola relative to the implications of the Snow Park and Snow Farm continuing to operate with road access only.

The gondola was part of an ‘‘integrated package of investment projects,'' that would enhance access and stimulate extensions in the Waiorau Ski Area zone.

Local construction, tourism, retail and hospitality businesses, and accommodation providers in the district would all benefit from the gondola's construction, the study claimed.

The additional information provided by Mr Copeland was likely to result in the Lees gaining consent to build the 3.8km-long, 50-carriage gondola, as an alternative to the existing mountain road access.

A memorandum released by the commissioners in January said, ‘‘If expert evidence is provided . . . we anticipate that we would be comfortable to grant consent to this development.''

The Lees' application is the second from a Wanaka skifield to build a gondola. Treble Cone parent company Snowline Holdings Ltd applied for a $20m system in July 2006.

That application is still live and has neither been accepted nor rejected. Amendments to the original proposal were made by the commissioners in December 2006, with a response from Snowline Holdings Ltd still under consideration, director Richard Hanson has said.

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