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Radio NZ: John Sandford

John Sandford and Sam Clarkson were interviewed on the Nine to Noon show on National Radio. The recording of the interview is available on the National Radio Nine to Noon website. The Waikato Times has also published an article featuring the John Sandford bid to purchase Turoa.

Kathryn Ryan:

At least two potential bidders have emerged for Ruapehu Alpine Lifts, which collapsed last October going into voluntary administration. This morning we hear from the first out of the blocks. It is a consortium of residents, local businesses, seasoned and life pass holders, out of town property owners from Ohakune and its environs. The threat of loss of the tourism magnet that is the skifield has prompted intense efforts for a survival plan for the major tourist attraction and lifeblood for local businesses. Administrators have been working since October trying to find a long-term solution for Ruapehu Alpine Lifts, which runs both Whakapapa and Tūroa ski fields. RAL has debts of $35 million and the government has put in $10 million to keep the business running while a solution is sought.

A group of life pass holders in the Save Mt Ruapehu Skifields group have formed an incorporated society as part of a proposal for the ski fields to be community-owned and not-for-profit. We've heard from them previously on Nine to Noon. Now at least two separate bids for all or part of the business are in the offing. The first we'll speak to today is for the Tūroa operation alone.

Meanwhile, the first snow of the winter has fallen on the mountain but season passes are yet to be made available. John Sanford is a former RAL board member, businessman and company director who's leading a new entity Tūroa Alpine Limited which lodged a bid with both MBIE and the administrators last week.


John Sanford

So tell us about Tūroa Alpine Limited and who is involved?

I'm not at liberty to give the other names but your description earlier was a good summary of the spread and depth of potential ownership if we're successful. And businesses around the region, not necessarily related to the skifield but who understand the importance, the economic and social importance of that entity to what was used to be called the Waimarino region and now the Southern part of the Ruapehu region.

So what will the structure of the proposed business be?

It will be a public company and people will be able to buy shares in the company. It will be a standard commercial entity and we won't be seeking public-benefit-entity status, i.e. being able to be regarded as tax free. It will be just a standard business model.

So fully commercial and what form of business? Could you give us an indication, a bit more detail of what the actual business entity would be legally? What format it would take?

It would be a publicly owned company. So with more than a couple of hundred shareholders, it could well have a thousand or more. And the capital will be raised to not only make the bid and pay for the opportunity to acquire the business and operating assets around Ohakune and Tūroa, but also having enough money in the bank that it doesn't doesn't suffer the same fate that RAL did.

So you're not aiming to make millions out of this, but you want to be profitable, you want to break even at least. Is the capital raising going to come from the shareholders? That will be the entire source of the capital raise?


Do you know if you have enough yet to do this?

I don't know if we have enough yet, but I'm confident with what we, the commitments that we do have, that we'll be able to raise the capital needed.

What's the figure you need?

At the moment we're planning around $10 million, maybe $8 million, between eight and ten, but there's still some work to do on that.