On the ropes: cable splicer on job at last

One of the world’s only specialist metal rope splicers has been hard at work in Queenstown, after gaining special permission to enter the country.

Hannes Koller arrived in New Zealand from Switzerland, after three previous attempts to gain permission to enter, and spent two weeks in quarantine.

"On Tuesday evening, after 365 hours and not one minute earlier, it was possible to leave the hotel," Mr Koller said.

He holed up in Auckland for three days, then 11 more in Christchurch, he said.

He then went on to shorten cables at Porters Alpine Resort in Canterbury on Wednesday and the Skyline gondola in Queenstown on Thursday.

The safety work was needed as the cables had stretched naturally over years of use.

Mr Koller is no stranger to New Zealand, having worked on cables across the country for more than 10 years.

Yesterday he arrived at The Remarkables skifield to "splice", or join, the two ends of the main haul cable of the new Sugar Bowl chairlift.

NZSki staff pull the cable taut as specialist metal rope splicer Hannes Koller thrashes the...
NZSki staff pull the cable taut as specialist metal rope splicer Hannes Koller thrashes the pieces into place at The Remarkables skifield. PHOTO: MATTHEW MCKEW

Mr Koller had first been asked to come in March, but was delayed by work in Switzerland and was then blocked by Covid-19 restrictions.

 

Once the virus looked to be under control, there was an eight-week struggle to fly the specialist in, Doppelmayr general manager Garreth Hayman said.

This involved getting permission from the Government, after which two flights were cancelled because of transit issues.

Mr Hayman said Austrian specialists, unable to fly over, were giving instructions to Kiwi workers via video-conferencing software to help complete the chairlift installation.

The workers were wearing Google Glass — digital glasses with a mounted camera — to enable the Austrians to see.

Remarkables ski area manager Ross Lawrence said the work was an important part of getting the Queenstown economy moving again.

He admitted the cost of replacing the skilift installed in the 1980s and trail work had risen from the original $17million price tag, but did not say by how much.

Mr Koller, who was assisted by around 20 NZSki staff, is due to finish his eight-hour stint at The Remarkables today.

He then flies back to Switzerland while New Zealand staff finish the installation.

matthew.mckew@odt.co.nz

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