Government promises up to $5m to ensure Mt Ruapehu ski season goes ahead

The Government is giving up to $5 million to the liquidators of Ruapehu Alpine Lifts (RAL) to ensure the mountain's 2023 ski season can go ahead.

Regional Development Minister Kiri Allan said this will allow time for liquidators to decide on the purchaser or purchasers of the business and its assets, and bring job certainty to the Ruapehu region.

Pure Tūroa and Whakapapa Holdings, following last week's liquidation of Ruapehu Alpine Lifts, were the frontrunners to take over a ski field each for $1.

But Allan has revealed a local iwi lined up to bid for the ski fields several months ago but she was never told about it. She has now written to the CEO of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to express her "extreme disappointment".

"There was an approach by Ngāti Tūwharetoa earlier in the piece when the other bidders were being engaged with, Ngāti Tūwharetoa made its proposal to MBIE and the voluntary administrator directly. I was not aware of that bid and the preliminary advice I have is that that is a very competitive tender."

RAL was one of the central North Island's biggest employers when it initially went into voluntary administration last year owing $45 million. 

Last week thousands of creditors, including lifepass holders, bondholders, mountain staff, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), and ANZ bank, voted on Tuesday on who will take over from RAL. 

A stalemate saw the company placed into liquidation.

Allan said the Government is committed to finding a way to ensure the ski season on Mount Ruapehu goes ahead this year. 

"Ruapehu is a very significant part of the economy in the central North Island, accounting for around a tenth of regional GDP, or $100 million per year. The season going ahead will save hundreds of jobs and support local tourism, the regional economy and the community, while a long-term solution is found," Allan said.

"This will provide workers on the mountain with job security and ensure businesses dependent on activities on and around the mountain have the certainty they need for the season ahead."

She said the liquidator is able to operate under the existing concessions.

Allan said she was unable to outline details of the latest proposal by Te Ariki Tā Tumu Te Heuheu, made to MBIE on behalf of Tūwharetoa.

"The Government is now considering the three bids for Government support and I have asked MBIE to engage with the bidders to determine the best outcome for RAL's creditors, the Crown, the local economy and community," Allan said.

However she is said to be furious that MBIE ignored what she described as a "commercially viable bid" from the iwi that she now wants put on the table and considered.

"I have expressed on behalf of my Cabinet colleagues my extreme disappointment with the way this matter has been dealt with. I don't think it has been an appropriate process by MBIE officials working in the region, it needed to be a lot more communicative and collaborative along the way," she said.

Allan said the bid from Tūwharetoa was disclosed to the voluntary administrator and to MBIE, but she wasn't made aware of it.

"I decided to go up and see for myself whether the right people had been engaged at the right level and they have not been. I am not pleased with the process to date," Allan said.

"You need hapū and iwi on board to manage the transfer of the concessions. I needed to make sure the commercial bids put up would withstand all the various hurdles and I was not convinced they would."

Last week, after RAL went into liquidation, both Whakapapa Holdings and Pure Tūroa released statements saying they were confident they could open the mountain by the end of this week if concessions with iwi could be obtained to operate on the mountain.