Cross-country skifield urgently seeks council funding

Pisa Alpine Charitable Trust members from left, John Hogg, Peter Soundy and Samuel "Q'' Belk...
Pisa Alpine Charitable Trust members from left, John Hogg, Peter Soundy and Samuel "Q'' Belk check documents before making their annual plan submission for toilets and a carpark at the Snow Farm. PHOTO: MARJORIE COOK
Snow Farm, New Zealand’s only cross-country skifield, is urgently seeking $450,000 from the Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) to help save it from an "existential crisis".

Speaking at a hearing for the council’s 2023-24 draft annual plan in Wānaka on Monday, Pisa Alpine Charitable Trust (Pact) chairman Samuel Belk said Snow Farm was running "by the smell of an oily rag" in a temporary structure consisting of containers, portable cabins and portable toilets.

"This is barely sustainable this year and unsustainable in the future."

Pact, which operates the skifield on the council-owned Waiorau recreation reserve, has found itself in need of funds for a new headquarters after its lease on an existing lodge was terminated by the Southern Hemisphere Proving Ground (SHPG) last October.

Pact is requesting council funding from this year’s budget for a $300,000 public toilet, shelter and utilities building, and an additional $150,000 for the construction of a 120-space carpark.

The facilities would be the first step in a multimillion-dollar development that would eventually include a headquarters with a reception, ticketing, lockers, rental area and classroom space.

The appeal marks the first time Pact has requested QLDC funding since ownership of the reserve was transferred to the council in 2012.

Mr Belk made the case that the Snow Farm was a part of community infrastructure serving the entire district and therefore warranted some investment from the council.

"To survive, the Snow Farm needs toilets and parking, and later on a base building."

Pact anticipates it will need about $1.6million to complete the first stage of the project, including the $450,000 it is seeking from the council.

A second phase of construction is estimated to require a further $975,000. Pact is asking the council to also consider making a $500,000 contribution to this phase in their 2024-25 budget.

Subject to funding, Pact hopes to have the first stage of the project completed by June 2024, and the entire facility built by June 2025.

Fellow Pact trustee John Hogg said the loss of their previous lodge had "come out of left field".

"We need a toilet and parking facilities now at a time when our resources have been depleted by the building of the musterer’s hut."

Completed just last year, the 36-bed musterer’s hut was a $750,000 project that was designed to host visiting schools.

Pact funded the project from a combination of community grants and trusts, internally-generated funds and donations.

Snow Farm hosts more than 15,000 users each winter season, including 48 New Zealand schools.

The site also has visitors in the summer months, the area being available to mountainbikers and hikers.

Speaking at the hearing, QLDC councillor Cody Tucker acknowledged the importance of having suitable facilities on the skifield by sharing a story of his own misfortune on the slopes.

"My first cross-country skiing experience we went snow farming in the hut there as well. It was pretty great.

"I had a dodgy curry that night and so the next morning I was passing Olympians ... trying to rush to the toilets."

The council received 301 written submissions in response to its 2023-24 draft annual plan, and heard from members of the public on 59 of those submissions at the hearing.

The council is expected to approve a final version of the annual plan next month.