On 24 November the Save Mt Ruapehu Skifields Group sent an open letter to Kānoa - Regional Economic Development & Investment Unit of the Ministry of Business Innovation & Employment. The letter summarised the community discussions and surveys to date as well as providing a copy of the draft crowdfunding proposal.
The letter seeks to provide evidence and advice regarding the feasibility of community funding for a new entity to operate the ski fields on Mt Ruapehu (NewCo), important principles for the formation of NewCo and share potential alternative structures for this entity. Key points highlighted included:
There is significant evidence from our group’s previous surveys and subsequent financial modelling that community funding is feasible to re-capitalise a new organisation for the operation of the skifields on Mt Ruapehu.
Responses to the MBIE survey of Life Pass Holders and the PwC survey of the community regarding the intent of these groups to invest may under-estimate the true investment potential available, due to the limited funding options offered and lack of detail on governance and ownership of NewCo available at this time.
Community ownership has been shown as a strong preference for the future operation of NewCo from our survey responses and would encourage further investment from many parties.
Our group members have also clearly said in their survey responses that they would like to see the involvement of mountain users and the community in the governance of Newco will help ensure transparency, accountability, and fiscal responsibility.
Any NewCo should retain the approach of re-investing profits back into maintenance and on-mountain assets.
Community Ownership Proposal Document
An a draft COmmunity Ownership Proposal Document was also attached to the letter to MBIE. The approach suggested in the proposal has already had broad consultation with the wider mountain community and is the result of several surveys. It is a living document and is currently being revised by a panel of volunteer experts in law, finance and snowsports operations.
The proposal lays out a roadmap for refreshing the approach to community ownership of the skifields on Mt Ruapehu. In particular, it is proposed to conduct an offer of shares in New Co through an issue a licensed equity crowdfunding platform. This type of 'mini IPO' process would allow for additional cash investment from the mountain community alongside any other owners who become part of New Co.
Petition to MBIE
The letter also included a copy of the petition to MBIE which has (as at 27 November) over 3,000 signatures. In an attempt to clarify a fairly complex situation, the petition summarises the various prior surveys and consultation into 4 key requests for the next steps:
Ownership: Skiers, snowboarders and mountain users should have a chance to own part of the skifields because community-ownership helps reflect the deep, enduring and personal connection to the mountain. Ownership turns an arms-length commercial purchase at a moment-in-time into a long-term personal relationship with the mountain.
Governance: Mountain users should have the chance to participate in the governance of the skifields. For example through shareholder voting rights or representative board seats allocated to stakeholder groups such as Life Pass Holders, RMCA and local community. Involving mountain users in governance will help ensure transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility.
Non-Profit: The proposed new entity should re-invest any profits back into maintenance and on-mountain assets. The founders of RAL included a clause in the constitution which mandated that any profit generated by the skifields had to be re-invested into maintenance and on-mountain improvements (not stripped out as short-term profits & dividends). This long-term view of building an enduring institution was grounded in a love for skiing and a desire to build an inter-generational asset that could survive for decades and weather the storm. Recent issues aside, this prudent fiscal approach has endured for almost 70 years and should be retained (or adopted and updated) in some from by any new entity.
Engagement: MBIE and ANZ should urgently engage with the mountain community and representative organisations. For example, in the recent life pass survey, a single $2,500 option was presented to understand feasibility - but this approach has risked alienating many participants, and we believe that more flexible funding options should be considered that can still achieve the recapitalisation of the future organisation.
A copy of the petition was attached to the letter that was sent to MBIE.
If you haven't already signed the petition to MBIE you can do so here:
If you haven't already filled in the unofficial crowdfunding survey then have you say here (this is a different survey from the PwC and MBIE ones, this one is deigned to help assess appetite across different types of crowdfunding participation):