Skyline plan for Franz Josef gondola

A Glacier Helicopters flight over Franz Josef Glacier. Photo: Supplied
A Glacier Helicopters flight over Franz Josef Glacier. Photo: Supplied

New Zealand tourism company Skyline Enterprises is investigating the development of a gondola system to view the Franz Josef Glacier on the West Coast.

Following discussions with the Department of Conservation and other parties, it will now fully study the installation of a gondola in order to make public access to the glacier easier and more affordable.

“The Franz Josef Glacier was in a state of advance until 2008 when it began retreating. Following a spectacular collapse of the terminal face in 2012, it is now only accessible by helicopter to land and walk on the Glacier,” Skyline Enterprises chairman Mark Quickfall said today.

“This prevents many visitors from experiencing the Glacier up close, outside of viewing from the base, unless they take a flight, which is not always an option due to weather conditions and cost.”

Skyline will consult a wide range of stakeholders in this regard, including Te Runanga o Makaawhio, Ngai Tahu, Franz Josef Community Council, West Coast Tai Poutini Conservation Board, Westland District Council, alpine groups, recreational users and all other relevant parties.

The positive flow-on effect to the Franz Josef and West Coast communities and the New Zealand economy, balanced against the environmental impacts, will be fully measured.

The gondola system would run adjacent to and above the glacier. The towers would be anchored to land and rock, not ice. Interpretation of glaciers and surrounds will be a key component of the concept. Similar interpretation projects have been successfully designed and built in sensitive areas globally.   

Skyline will continue to engage with the Department of Conservation on the Westland National Park Management Review to determine if the gondola system can be permitted, should all environmental issues be satisfied.

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