Merging ski areas seek exemptions

Cardrona Alpine Resort and Soho Ski Area Ltd have called for exemptions from proposed earthworks rules after plans were announced for a merger between the two to create New Zealand's largest ski resort.

The skifield owners sought exemptions to allow continued development in ski area sub zones (SASZ), making submissions to a hearing panel considering stage 2 of the Queenstown District Council's proposed district plan (PDP) last week.

Both companies argued there was no need to make any ``significant'' changes to the approach taken to manage earthworks in SASZs under the council's operative district plan.

Planner and environmental consultant Ralph Henderson said Soho viewed earthworks as an ``essential component of the creation and ongoing operation of a skifield''.

Soho submitted that it should be exempt from all rules included in the earthworks chapter of the PDP.

Real Journeys-owned Cardrona called for all earthworks undertaken during the operation of skifields, including the making of tracks for summer recreation activities, to be exempt from resource consent.

It also submitted that earthworks made to build or maintain private roads and car parks associated with SASZs should not require resource consent.

The submitters claimed there was no evidence from the council to show the adverse effects of earthworks in the ski area sub-zone and highlighted the future benefits works would bring to those who use the skifields and the local economy.

Panel chairman Denis Nugent questioned why exemptions should be allowed in ski area sub-zones and not regular sub-zones as part of the PDP.

``Do the benefits outweigh the impact on the environment?''

Cardrona was expected to more than double in size to cover a 900ha ski area once the merger is complete. The development is expected to begin once the Cardrona masterplan is finalised.

Skifield operator Treble Cone Ltd also submitted that it should be exempt from all proposed earthworks rules. Submissions to the panel on stage 2 of the PDP ended in Queenstown last week.

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