Businesses in Central Plateau reeling after Ruapehu Alpine Lifts goes into voluntary administration

Businesses in the Central Plateau are reeling after the company that runs Whakapapa and Turoa ski fields went into voluntary administration.

Ruapehu Alpine Lifts currently employs 196 people, but in a normal season, 1880 people either work for the company or directly rely on them.

It's a grim day on a bare maunga, closed because of the rain on Wednesday and facing the prospect of a final closure after Ruapehu Alpine Lifts went into voluntary administration. 

It's sombre times for 196 staff.

"There has been a lot of emotion, there's people here that have worked on this maunga, their parents have worked on this maunga for 70 years," Ruapehu Alpine Lifts CEO Jono Dean told Newshub.

Ohakune is a ski town that caters to tourists on down days, but can it continue to attract tourists without the lure of a mountain?

"Everybody's nervous, we're a little bit uncertain about the future but we want to see things progress and we're a positive community that holds hope high," Vertigo Climbing Ruapehu's Jeremy Hamer said.

Coffee van owner Dylan Story has been up since 7am giving flagging Ruapehu Alpine Lift staff members and townsfolk their caffeine boost.

"I am a bit sad. Just trying to figure out what's going to happen really. It's nerve-wracking, we are in mourning pretty much," Story said.

PwC voluntary administrator John Fisk told Newshub that COVID-19 and a terrible ski season were a terrible mix for the ski fields.

"Two years of COVID-19 and then this [ski] season has just been dreadful. It's the worst snow conditions that they've had since 1989. They couldn't have asked for a more perfect storm," Fisk said.

If the business was to close the assets may be worth next to nothing, which would dismantle all of the infrastructures on a volcano in one of the harshest environments in New Zealand and may end up costing more than it's worth.

Ruapehu Alpine Lifts couldn't extend its line of credit. Fisk reckoned it owes nearly $40 million - $15 million to the Government before the Regional Development Minister Stuart Nash turned off the tap and said: "Decisions such as this are never taken lightly and I acknowledge the impact this will have on the community."

There are 16,000 lifetime pass-holders like ski enthusiast Madeleine Taylor. 

"We will wait and see. There is no point in panicking - that's silly, isn't it," Taylor said.

Some stakeholders are stepping forward with potential solutions.

"It's time to get back to the basics of how Ruapehu began, which is of the skiers, by the skiers, for the skiers and a crowd-funded model," Skotel Hotel owner Sam Clarkson said.

Fisk told Newshub he thinks the skifield will be able to survive.

"I'm sure it can, it's just a question of in what shape that will be in."

Ruapehu's reckoned to be worth $100 million to the Central Plateau but Fisk said there's no silver bullet to tapping that potential.