Council to chew over gondola venture

12:00, May 20 2010

The possibility of a $50 million gondola in Palmerston North is set to be debated at the city council within two months.

Palmerston North City Council chief executive Paddy Clifford said he expected to bring a report to councillors soon and he wanted to know if they believed staff should spend time on further study of the project's merits and implications.

The Manawatu Standard reported on Monday that Palmylink wanted to build a gondola linking Massey University with central Palmerston North, but it was unclear how the project would be funded.

About 12,000 people travel to Massey almost daily, many of them along a single corridor – Fitzherbert Ave – which crosses the Manawatu River.

The project's backers have indicated they would need friendly terms from public bodies to make the business stack up.

Reaction to the proposed gondola has been mixed.

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Retired city engineer Neil Johansen, 86, said the idea of a gondola in Palmerston North was raised in the early 1970s. It didn't get past the suggestion stage at the council, he said.

If a venture got off the ground, its success would depend on getting people to change their travel habits, he said.

Horizons regional councillor and former mayor Paul Rieger, who attended a workshop about the proposal last week, said the idea was wonderful, but he couldn't see how it would be viable.

Hotel Coachman owner Leonie Hapeta, whose business is on Fitzherbert Ave, said the gondola would add life to the city, should it go ahead.

Project promoter Ryan O'Connor said Palmerston North's flat terrain wouldn't be a problem.

Cities overseas were seriously considering gondolas for public transport, he said.

They were cheaper to install than trams or light rail systems, he said.

Mr O'Connor said people involved in Palmylink had worked hard to refine the concept and the next stage would be to develop a proposal that could be put to potential investors.

'VISIONARY CONCEPT'

More than half of respondents to a manawatustandard.co.nz poll believe a gondola in Palmerston North is a great idea.

Fifty-six per cent of more than 360 people said it would be "awesome" and 44 per cent thought the idea ridiculous.

Comments:

"Finally, a visionary concept unique to Palmerston North."

"A monorail system would be better."

"Let's be realistic, Palmerston North is not big enough to support a $50m white elephant."

"A facility of this nature would certainly set Massey University and Palmerston North apart and provide a significant focus for the city in the area of sustainable technology and innovation."

"A gondola is a really crazy idea. I had to double check the date and make sure we hadn't slipped back to April the 1st."

"This would be a unique scheme that would attract tourists to the city as well as relieving peak-hour congestion on the arterial routes, not to mention parking at Massey."

"And where's the money coming from?"

Manawatu Standard