CONCESSION SUBMISSIONS DUE FRIDAY 9th FEBRUARY 2024
Pure Tūroa Ltd (PTL) has submitted a concession application so that they can operate the Tūroa Skifield. Public submissions are due Friday 9th February 2024.
We encourage you to participate in the Tūroa Concession application process. No decision by the Department of Conservation (DoC) on the concession for Tūroa has been made yet and it is important that a wide range of considerations are heard, including yours.
The situation with the Department of Conservation
Ruapehu Alpine Lifts (RAL) currently holds a 60-year concession to operate the Tūroa Skifield.
PTL has applied to the DoC to seek a 10-year concession to operate the Tūroa Skifield. This duration has been confirmed by DoC in this email.
Please take some time to thoroughly read through PTL’s concession application so that you are fully informed of their intended plan, should they be successful in their application process.
YOUR OPINION MATTERS! We strongly encourage you to make your own individual submission to outline any feedback or concerns you have with the PTL concession plan.
You have until 5pm Friday 9th February 2024 to lodge a submission under the public consultation process.
As part of your submission, you can request to attend a public hearing to speak to your submission. This is optional and it is likely that a hearing will occur during the week starting 19th February 2024, if you would like to take part.
The concession application and submission forms are available on the DoC website: https://www.doc.govt.nz/get-involved/have-your-say/all-consultations/2023-consultations/pure-turoa-limited/
The process after submissions close
1. DoC will analyse and consider all submissions.
2. If there have been requests to be heard by the Director-General a hearing will be held. If you have expressed an interest in presenting your submission at a hearing, you will be contacted by DoC.
3. DoC will analyse and consider information raised at the hearing (if one occurred).
4. DoC will make a recommendation to the Minister of Conservation.
5. The Minister of Conservation will make a decision on the application.
The Stakeholder’s Association (RSSA) will contribute its own submission, but we strongly encourage you, our members, to put forward your own submissions so that a diversity of viewpoints can be considered by DoC. There are a range of concerns and endorsements that you may wish to personally address in your own submission.
The main topics in the RSSA submission are detailed below – this will be added to over time, so please check back on the page regularly:
The short length of the concession (10-years).
The existing concession already being in place.
Removal of key lifts (Nga Wai Heke chair, Giant Chair, and the Wintergarden Platter).
Reduced skier capacity from 5,500 to 4,500.
Transparency around PTL’s Governance and Management Team, and redactions of financials.
Letters written by various iwi to The Crown stating that any sale of RAL assets is prejudicial to their Tongariro National Park (TNP) Treaty negotiations.
The negotiation period – past negotiations took around four years.
Failure to address a solution to Whakapapa’s part in the liquidation and receivership of RAL.
Your own submission need not be comprehensive (but it is great if it is!), you can comment on a single aspect, or more, and you can approve of some aspects, whilst objecting to others. Whatever you are comfortable with/passionate about.
We are looking to facilitate an open discussion between the people looking to contribute. If you would like to participate, please email email@example.com.
The National Parks Act
Part 1 of the National Parks Act under section 4 is, in our view, a fundament piece of legislation to understand and reference when preparing your submission:
Part 1: National parks
Principles to be applied in national parks
4 Parks to be maintained in natural state, and public to have right of entry
(1) It is hereby declared that the provisions of this Act shall have effect for the purpose of preserving in perpetuity as national parks, for their intrinsic worth and for the benefit, use, and enjoyment of the public, areas of New Zealand that contain scenery of such distinctive quality, ecological systems, or natural features so beautiful, unique, or scientifically important that their preservation is in the national interest.
(2) It is hereby further declared that, having regard to the general purposes specified in subsection (1), national parks shall be so administered and maintained under the provisions of this Act that—
(a) they shall be preserved as far as possible in their natural state:
(b) except where the Authority otherwise determines, the native plants and animals of the parks shall as far as possible be preserved and the introduced plants and animals shall as far as possible be exterminated:
(c) sites and objects of archaeological and historical interest shall as far as possible be preserved:
(d) their value as soil, water, and forest conservation areas shall be maintained:
(e) subject to the provisions of this Act and to the imposition of such conditions and restrictions as may be necessary for the preservation of the native plants and animals or for the welfare in general of the parks, the public shall have freedom of entry and access to the parks, so that they may receive in full measure the inspiration, enjoyment, recreation, and other benefits that may be derived from mountains, forests, sounds, seacoasts, lakes, rivers, and other natural features.
Compare: 1952 No 54 s 3; 1972 No 87 s 2
The RSSA Project Team has been brainstorming ideas and considerations. We also encourage you to come up with your own feedback and perspectives that could be included a submission, referencing the principles in the Act.
Considerations include (but are not limited to):
The length of concession being sought is 10 years. Will this length of concession allow for any operator to make any significant and serious investment into the skifields?
There are already 60-year concessions in place for Tūroa, held by RAL, therefore there is no need to issue new concessions. RAL has operated the Tūroa skifields for over 20 years, significantly longer than any of the three preceding private operators. The RAL Creditors Committee has publicly stated that they wish to pursue a creditors compromise. This would mean the Crown would substantially write off all of its debt so that RAL, the existing public benefit company that has operated for 70 years, is no longer insolvent. This solution retains the Nga Wai Heke Chair, Giant Chair, and Wintergarden Platter for the public enjoyment. Note: 71% of Creditors voted for the RSSA DOCA to restructure the existing public benefit company at the watershed meeting in June 2023.
Removal of key lifts – Nga Wai Heke chair, Giant Chair, and the Wintergarden Platter is of concern in terms of:
Additional environment damage created by removing the structures (arguably most environment damage is done at the time of construction).
Reducing ski uphill capacity and concentrating users onto reduced lift-accessed terrain.
Reduced public enjoyment due to limiting the skiable terrain.
Health and safety concerns should the ski slope capacity be exceeded, dangerously disrupting skier flow (skier traffic congestion/bottle necks due to all skiers being uploaded and offload to limited number of offload and upload points). Slope capacity is an essential component of a properly planned and functioning ski area. To put too many users onto limited terrain is dangerous.
The concession proposes reducing skier capacity from 5,500 to 4,500. This impacts on the public’s right to access and enjoy the national park. Reduced capacity may lead to increased lift pass prices, which makes accessing the Tūroa Skifield less affordable and accessible to everyday Kiwis. This is a direct conflict of the right to the benefit, use, and enjoyment of the public.
Transparency issues around the PTL Governance and Management Team, and financials being redacted from the concession application. Without full disclosure of vital information, the public cannot form an opinion on PTL’s (or any other applicant’s) capability in terms of skills, knowledge, and financial strength to operate the Tūroa Skifield for the duration of the concession period being sought.
RSSA exists to advocate the perspective and viewpoints of all stakeholders. Various iwi have written letters to The Crown stating that any sale of RAL assets is prejudicial to their Tongariro National Park (TNP) Treaty negotiations and have threatened legal action if the sales process continues https://newsroom.co.nz/2023/09/11/ruapehu-fields-not-commercially-viable-iwi-says/. RSSA notes that iwi need to be appropriately consulted on any concession application and wholly support iwi concerns that this sale/lease process will be prejudicial to the iwi TNP Treaty negotiations. A Treaty breach will likely lead to further legal proceedings, creating further delays and uncertainty. We note that the last attempt MBIE made at getting concessions was unsuccessful and disrespected iwi, leading to a Ministerial apology for a flawed process. Read here: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/ruapehu-skifields-govt-ministers-apologise-for-iwi-flawed-engagement/TA23QCTRIFBPTM7LQ24CRN3NCE/
RSSA is aware of the uncertainty that the issuing of new concessions has created over the past 16 months. If concessions were easy the RAL sales process would have been concluded by the PwC Liquidators at the watershed meeting on 20 June 2023 or following day on 21 June 2023. The issuance of concessions is not an easy process. The current RAL licences (signed 2015 & 2017 respectively) were the result of long negotiations that took around four years each to conclude. The idea that any new concession will be quick is unlikely, as it is a process that should not be rushed.
It is important to note that a concession application for Tūroa does not address a solution for Whakapapa, leaving the administration/liquidation/receivership of RAL to be resolved. RSSA urges the new government to seriously consider a court approved creditors compromise as recommended by the RAL Liquidation Committee. The Crown now own most of RAL’s secured debt and can provide a more certain pathway through a court approved creditors compromise to retain a restructured RAL, using the existing concession with improved governance