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Tūroa Concession Oral Submissions



The oral submissions for the Application by Pure Tūroa Limited to operate Tūroa Ski Area on Mt Ruapehu came to a close on 26 February 2024. Our team of volunteers managed to attend and make notes on all of the verbal submissions that were presented to DoC in Ohakune and Tūrangi over the four days.

 

It was great to see the fantastic groundswell of support for the Tūroa skifield and a future of continued skiing on both sides of the mountain. It would seem we are all in agreement there.

Many of the presentations raised very powerful and interesting points, as listed below. There was a real contrast between supporters, who mainly just wanted to ski, with the deeply contextualised and well-prepared iwi submissions and those opposing the concessions.

 

Verbal submitters in support of the Pure Tūroa Limited (PTL) application unfortunately had a significant number of ’no shows’, and those who did turn up to present seems to be mainly opinion-based and lacked detailed references to the concession criteria under consideration. A number of supporters stated their support was based on their belief in the excellent relationship between PTL and local iwi, which it now transpires was clearly misplaced, as no iwi group supported PTL in their submissions.

 

It must also be noted that the applicants themselves only attended the hearings briefly and were not present at their own right of reply. Instead, they had Cheal Consultants reply with a very short and bland response at the end of the hearings to address only some of the concerns raised.


Summary of Oral Submissions

 

  1. Lease versus Licence. The applicant has applied for a lease instead of a license (which previous concessions have used). A lease has the potential to lock out public access to a significant area of the national park. This impinges on the public right of access and public enjoyment of the national park.

  2. The name "Pure Tūroa" is apparently offensive to the descendants of the great chief Tōpia Peehi Tūroa of Ngāti Patutokotoko who behold the name Tūroa.

  3. All iwi groups advised the panel that they have not been adequately consulted, or that they have been excluded from the process. One submitter reminded the panel that consultation requires more than just a cup of tea.

  4. Potential Te Tiriti o Waitangi and partnership breaches from the sale of Ruapehu Alpine Lifts’ (RAL) assets was another common theme. It was noted this could lead to further court action if the concessions were granted.

  5. Patutokotoko made an offer to purchase RAL assets in their submission and noted the importance of an inter-generational solution and to uphold Te Tiriti settlement agreements, and also not prejudice Tongariro National Park (TNP) negotiations.

  6. It was noted that all iwi oral submissions expressed support for a future for skiing and snowboarding at the Tūroa skifield in some form.

  7. Many submissions identified legislative issues in the process, such as the fact the TNP plan only allows for one named company to operate the skifields.

  8. The application was insufficient and inadequate, as it contained a ‘copy and paste’ of outdated information and reports from the old RAL application. This was noted as inappropriate, given this is a new applicant without any history.

  9. Several supporting documents required for a valid application were missing. For example, no cultural assessment reports were commissioned by applicants.

  10. The applicant is a newly formed company and many submitters had concerns regarding the applicant’s experience and financial viability. Evidence of the company's financial stability and durability was redacted and severely lacking.

  11. Environmental concerns regarding the protection of the Tūroa Alpine Flush were a common concern.

  12. The seventy year financial viability of the existing RAL company was presented by various submitters using the historical data and publicly available financial data from the successful 2023 ski season when Tūroa and Whakapapa operated under one entity overseen by PwC.

  13. Some submitters noted (as taxpayers) that DoC is subject to very high risk with the current application as the applicant is not taking on the make good remediation liability for the assets they will be operating (only for newly constructed assets), leaving the cleanup of all existing infrastructure as a future public liability.

  14. Health and Safety issues were raised concerning the removal of lifts proposed in the application.



Where to next?

 

The DoC concession committee has confirmed that they will provide a report to the Minister, or nominated persons, with a recommendation on the concession by 15 March 2024 for them to make a final decision.

 

DoC have also advised that the public hearing recordings will not be made available at this stage and that the report to the Minister will not be made public either. In our view this continues to raise serious concerns of this being a transparent and robust process, and the Stakeholders Association has submitted an Official Information Act request for each respectively.

 

Based on the submissions from all iwi it has unfortunately become clear that the concession application and the asset sale process may breach legal agreements with iwi and if it proceeds there is likely to be further legal action. It is also now clear that (despite claims to the contrary by MBIE) there has been not been adequate consultation with the relevant iwi, hapu and stakeholders. So it is therefore impossible for DoC to know all the relevant cultural effects of this concession application.

 

Sadly, this confirms what the RSSA has said all along regarding the complex context of skiing on Mt Ruapehu and is consistent with our previously published concerns that new skifield concessions may not be granted.

 

So the most important question is: Why has this happened and how can it be resolved?

 

RAL took several years to renegotiate its concessions for Tūroa and after reading the submissions and listening to the hearings, it is apparent that there are significant complexities for any operator to receive a new skifield concession.

 

In our view, this mess was entirely foreseeable and has arisen because MBIE and PwC have made an error in approaching this problem and trying to solve it as purely a commercial issue (using the Companies Act). The Companies Act was not written or intended for this very unique and complex scenario.

 

If this application is not granted, then the 2024 ski season can continue to operate under the existing operation with staff, insurance and assets already in place.

 

The obvious solution is for the Government to engage respectfully and authentically with iwi, hapu and key stakeholders, using a “whole of government approach” as requested by iwi. This should not be led by MBIE solely focusing on a commercial solution.

 

Otherwise, we may very well all be here again in another 12 months, still seeking new concessions which are not forthcoming. We are already in month 18 of a process that could have been avoided entirely by MBIE simply not calling in their loans.


We will stay in touch as the concession process progresses.

 

Ngā mihi

The RSSA Team

 

P.S. The Stakeholders Association is renewing its 2024 memberships, please support the association for this 2024 year by continuing your membership. Please contact members@rssa.org.nz if you have not received your membership invoice.


P.P.S. As always, all donations are welcomed and greatly needed to help resource the volunteer Stakeholders Association to advocate for the long-term preservation of skiing on Ruapehu: Donate to support the preservation of the Ruapehu Skifields


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