NZSki blasts Doc over delays

Paul Anderson
Paul Anderson
NZSKI has blasted the Department of Conservation after the skifield owner had to freeze plans for a new multimillion-dollar chairlift this year.

The deadline to ensure a replacement Sugar Basin chairlift could be in place at The Remarkables for this season came and went on Sunday, meaning the $16 million lift will be sitting in storage in Queenstown until next summer.

The project had been awaiting resource consent approval from Doc, from which NZSki leases the Rastus Burn Recreation Reserve land for the skifield, but that has yet to eventuate.

NZSki chief executive Paul Anderson hit out at Doc yesterday, saying he was ''bitterly disappointed''.

He said delays in the process were ''unconscionable''.

''We're gutted.''

The Remarkables skifield near Queenstown. The Sugar Bowl lift is shown climbing the mountain on the right. Photo: Joshua Walton
The Remarkables skifield near Queenstown. The Sugar Bowl lift is shown climbing the mountain on the right. Photo: Joshua Walton

But Doc has fired back, saying NZSki made the call to order the lift before consent was granted.

Mr Anderson said the application was filed on August 2 last year.

About a year ago, Doc had indicated the process would not be publicly notified, he said.

Thirteen weeks after the application was filed, NZSki was told it would need to be notified, he said.

''We still have no commitment from them about when they'll be ready to give us a decision.

''They've been very difficult to work with. I'm very frustrated.''

As well as delaying the project by a year, it also had flow-on effects on staff and contractors.

''We've had people on hold who will now have to go and do other work,'' Mr Anderson said.

Doc Southern South Island operations director Aaron Fleming said the department was working through the application as quickly as possible, but had to follow a process.

He said there had not been a 13-week delay.

''Doc received NZSki's formal application on August 2 and from there underwent due process in assessing whether the application met the threshold for notification.

''We do acknowledge a two-week delay at the beginning of the process which was communicated with NZSki.''

He said while preliminary discussions indicated the work could be below the threshold for notification, no official advice was given until a detailed written application was submitted.

''Once this was received and assessed by Doc, it was apparent notification would be required.''

Doc could not rush applications, Mr Fleming said.

''It was NZSki's decision to take on the commercial risk of ordering the chairlift and marketing the chairlift and ski trail to its customers before completing the approval process.''

Doc expected to have a decision by the end of the month.

A hearing of submissions on the plans for a six-seater chairlift, revised ski trails and snow-making equipment was held in December.

After the hearing, NZSki owner Sir John Davies said the chairlift having to sit in storage was the ''worst-case scenario''.

If and when Doc approval was granted, affected-party consent would then be needed from Ngai Tahu and the Otago Regional Council, and building consent from the Queenstown Lakes District Council.

Some 104,000sqm of land would be disturbed by the works and native species of flora replanted elsewhere.

That was one of the concerns about the environmental impact of the work raised at the hearing by botanist and University of Otago Emeritus Professor Sir Alan Mark and Forest & Bird Otago-Southland central regional manager Sue Maturin.

Ski area manager Ross Lawrence told the hearing the application had been revised to reduce the area modified by 33,000sqm.

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