Ruapehu Alpine Lifts gets $7m bailout from government

The government has agreed to give Ruapehu Alpine Lifts (RAL) a $7 million bailout.

It has told the operator it will be its last taxpayer bailout.

This is RAL's fifth multimillion-dollar bailout in the last 18 months.

In October 2023, the government gave the company - which is in voluntary administration - an extra $7m. 

That was on top of a $5m loan announced in June 2023 and $2m and $6m in November and December 2022 respectively.

In a statement, Regional Development Minister Shane Jones and Conservation Minister Tama Potaka said the latest bailout was to ensure the 2024 ski season could go ahead on the Whakapapa ski field.

Cabinet had also agreed to provide $3.05m in equity and loan funding to support the sale of Tūroa ski field assets to Pure Tūroa Ltd, the statement said.

Jones said this was Ruapehu Alpine Lifts' final opportunity to find a commercially viable solution for Whakapapa. 

It also provided more certainty for Tūroa.

"The government cannot indefinitely sustain the ski fields. That is why Cabinet is signalling a clear end point," Jones said.

"If no acceptable commercially led solution can be found within the next year, there will be no additional government funding for RAL's Whakapapa ski operations."

Last week, the government's preferred bidder, Tom Elworthy, walked away from negotiations on purchasing the Whakapapa skifield. 

Elworthy said the deal was not worth it and no-one would be willing to take on a business with more than $15m of debt repayments and other risks.

The uncertainty over the skifield's future was "frustrating for local businesses", Ruapehu District mayor Wes Kirton said at the time.

"It turns over something like $100m collectively between the two mountains through our industry and that's certainly a big hit for the community."

Ruapehu Skifield Stakeholders Association earlier put forward a proposal to run Whakapapa and Tūroa together as a not-for-profit, using crowdfunding and having iwi on board. 

However, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment did not engage with the idea.

Jones said snow tourism was a large employer in the region, supporting about 800 full-time equivalent jobs.