The two troubled ski fields on Mount Ruapehu could soon be saved.
Newshub has revealed the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) will go to Cabinet recommending two private entities that could take over a ski field each after Ruapehu Alpine Lifts (RAL) went into voluntary administration last October, owing $45 million.
One would get Turoa, while the other gets Whakapapa.
The Government has pumped $8 million in bridging funding into Ruapehu Alpine Lifts (RAL) since last year.
Four bidders have been vying to take over, but Newshub understands MBIE has given the nod to Pure Turoa, backed by developer Cam Robertson and Greg Hickman, to run that side. It means Turoa Alpine Ltd is out of luck. Auckland business John Sandford was behind that.
Meanwhile, Whakapapa will likely be taken over by a private equity firm with links to South Island businessman Tom Elworthy and Ruapehu Alpine Lift’s former boss Dave Mazey.
But the Ruapehu Skifields Stakeholders Association, who wanted to crowdfund for both fields, is out in the cold and complaining about the process.
“They have come in with a big chequebook and said to MBIE, ‘Here’s some money’, and MBIE have gone, ‘Oh yeah, that’ll do’. But we honestly don’t know the public deserves to know about this,” said Sam Clarkson, a spokesperson for the association.
Neither of the two successful bidders would tell Newshub what their vision for the mountain entails. Pure Turoa Limited’s Robertson said he’s bound by a non-disclosure agreement. Locals said Mazey, the former RAL boss with links to the second successful bidder, is a Mr Fixit and a go-to guy who knows the mountain well.
Business owners and those who rely on the crowds the mountain brings are over the moon that both groups have passionate locals in their ranks.
“We will see management of a different style, an entrepreneurial take on it and a hometown take as well,” said cafe owner Karl Christensen.
“The upside to this having it split is they will open up healthy competition which will mean they will both be pushing for earlier opening dates and later closing dates,” said TCB Ski, Board and Bike owner Ben Wiggins.
With season passes on hold and creditor meetings still being put off, not everyone is happy.
Clarkson, who represents the 14,000 life pass holders and iwi at the Ruapehu Skifields Stakeholders Association, said MBIE never gave them a look in.
“What seems to have happened is that one of the creditors, MBIE, has taken over the process and running it on their own agenda and speaking to only who they want to speak to,” Clarkson said.
“It smacks of lack of transparency. There have been four proposals for the future of the ski areas and the public deserve to know what those proposals are.”
He described the process as “frustrating and opaque”.
In a statement to Newshub, MBIE wouldn’t confirm whether it has chosen two parties to recommend to Cabinet.
“Four potential bidders for the RAL business have been identified and have submitted Expressions of Interest (EOI). The Government is to consider the options and will make a decision in due course,” a spokesperson said.
“Any decisions will be informed by independent advice, including legal advice, and these decisions will set the direction for further negotiations to take place, so will not be the end of this process.”
They wouldn’t provide further comment on this.
With winter just around the corner, will the potentially successful bidders be able to turn both ski fields around in time?
“The chairs are even on at Turoa, the boys are doing line testing up at Whakapapa, everything is ready to turn and get going,” Wiggins said.
“With this snow, it’s getting people excited. The main thing that will take sorting out is the guys in the back room signing the paperwork to decide who is the boss.”
But the devil will be in the detail, and that’s one for Cabinet.
Content courtesy of Newshub.co.nz