Cash-poor owners stick to steps
The market for one of Wellington's more exclusive forms of transport has slowed to a crawl.
Private cable cars are a feature of high-end, hilly suburbs such as Oriental Bay and Seatoun, climbing up the steep hillsides to reach some of the city's most striking property.
The founder of Lower Hutt company Access Automation, Mark Galvin, said the market for new installations had been quiet since about 2010, when the effect of the global economic slowdown started to kick in for homeowners.
Linda Forrest and husband Peter Camp are one couple who have bucked the trend, installing a new cable car from their garage to their house in 2011.
When they bought their house in Roseneath 25 years, it was a half-derelict cottage without plumbing. The garden tumbles down from their garage to the house, which has magnificent views across the harbour.
"We've been here 25 years and, for the first 16, I walked up and down," Mrs Forrest said. "I'm still capable of walking up and down, but when the kids were tiny I'd probably do 10 trips to bring in the shopping."
Now she runs a B&B at the house for six months of the year, and said she could not manage without a cable car to shift bags and guests up and down. The new one has replaced an older model.
Tourists were impressed by the system, for the most part, she said. "One or two won't go in it . . . they tend to be quite fit. Older people love it."
Cable cars are fairly common in the part of Roseneath where the couple live, with four or five others close by.
"They are expensive, but they are valuable," she said. "Every six months you have to have it checked out, and once a year you have to get a warrant of fitness."
There are believed to be about 300 private cable cars in Wellington. Mr Galvin said the longest was probably about 100 metres.
Building consent is required for a new "line". Annual safety checks must be carried out, and the council must ensure any maintenance needed is done.
The rules were introduced in 2005 after a Wellington family survived a 10-metre plunge when their cable car engine failed. Since then, according to the Wellington City Council, 40 new cars have been installed, 14 of them built after 2010.
Compliance costs, as well as the economic slowdown, had led to the slower domestic market, Mr Galvin said. "People are being a bit more careful with their disposable income."
His company had also installed cable cars at a resort in Da Nang, Vietnam, and at private homes in Australia, particularly in Sydney.
The Dominion Post