Government pitching in $10m for new high-speed gondola at Whakapapa ski field

A $25 million high-speed gondola will be built at Whakapapa ski field, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones has announced.

A $10 million loan from Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) will be granted to Ruapehu Alpine Lifts Ltd, with the remaining $15 million coming from local government and local investors along with the operator.

The project is being hailed as a boost for tourism across the central North Island.

The gondola will replace the national chairlift, with Mr Jones saying it "has capacity to safely and swiftly transport up to 2,400 passengers per hour to Knoll Ridge Café in 10 person cabins – a journey that will take five minutes".

Mr Jones said it will attract an estimated 500,000 additional visitor days by 2025 and increase the number of non-skiers visiting.

"As part of a suite of other projects, this could be transformative for the central North Island and the Ruapehu district in particular.

"The new gondola will enhance the upper mountain at Whakapapa and allow it to become a year-round destination, providing greater certainty for employers and stable employment for local workers.

"The project is part of a broader plan to boost visitor numbers to the Ruapehu and Taupo districts, and is expected to have significant economic and social impacts in those communities.

"The Gondola has the potential to be the linchpin investment creating the 'must do' attraction around which other investments would work."

Construction is set to begin in November, with the gondola likely to be in use by next winter.

The gondola will take five minutes to transport passengers to Knoll Ridge Cafe in 10 person cabins. Source: Supplied

Tourist tax: Who will and who won't have to pay the levy of up to $35 to visit New Zealand?

Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis has this morning acknowledged the New Zealand tourism industry expressed concerns to him about the new proposed levy of up to $35 during its conception.

Mr Davis announced the tourist levy in Wellington today, set for a start date of the end of 2019, and assured any negative impact on visitor numbers to our shores was taken into consideration when designing the levy.

In particular, a number of major tourist markets to New Zealand will be exempt from the toll.

"I know the industry had concerns. I've heard them, and have taken them into account when designing this system," Mr Davis said.

"But we know given the projected growth in visitors, doing nothing is not an option.

"Let me be clear, it will not apply to a New Zealand citizen or permanent residents, it will not cause disruption at the border, and it will not affect our major short-fall markets of Australia and the Pacific Islands."

Mr Davis said it was not fair New Zealand residents continued to shoulder the burden of conservation infrastructure in particular - which is worn down by the growing tourist numbers.

The Tourism Minister said the $3.8 million international visitors that arrive in New Zealand every year, is expected to grow to $5.1 million by 2024.

"In many places our tourism infrastructure is creaking at the seams as you all well know," Mr Davis said.

"We don't believe the financial burden should rest purely on the shoulders of New Zealanders, we do believe that visitors should pay their fair share."  

Details of the levy

Most international visitors entering New Zealand for 12 months or less would be charged a levy, proposed to be between $25 to $35.

There would be some exemptions, most notably Australian citizens and permanent residents and people from most Pacific Island Forum countries.

The levy would be collected through visa fees, and via a proposed Electronic Travel Authority process for citizens of visa waiver countries.

The Government says levies would collect around $57 to $80 million in its first year, depending on the rate, which will be split between tourism infrastructure and conservation activity.

The levy will likely be implemented in the second half of 2019 as it will have to go through a legislative process.

Consultation on the International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy is open from today until July 15, along with consultation on the Electronic Travel Authority and fees and levies proposals.

Kelvin Davis says it’s not fair New Zealand rate payers continue to shoulder the infrastructure burden. Source: 1 NEWS


Classic car seized by police in Bay of Plenty meth operation

A classic car has been seized by police in the Bay of Plenty town of Kawerau that was allegedly acquired through the proceeds of illegal drug activity.

Yesterday police seized the 1955 Ford Customline car as part of an ongoing operation to strip people of assets they have acquired through the sale and supply of methamphetamine.

In a statement Sergeant Al Fenwick says police want to ensure those selling meth in the Kawerau community "aren’t able to build and enjoy nest eggs of assets on the back of the suffering and misery of others".

"As part of our follow up in Kawerau we are looking to strengthen and build resilience in the community and are working with other agencies to support those that have been affected by methamphetamine.  

A 1955 Ford Customline car seized by police in Kawerau.
A 1955 Ford Customline car seized by police in Kawerau. Source: NZ Police.