Report favours Brook Valley gondola proposal

KATE DAVIDSON
Last updated 12:58 04/06/2014
Nelson gondola
GREAT HEIGHTS: Fringed Hill, as seen from central Nelson, is the site of a proposed gondola.
Nelson gondola
HIGH HOPES: The gondola and mountainbike park is to be modelled on this venture in Scotland, the Nevis Range Experience.

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A feasibility study on a proposed Nelson gondola has given its backers confidence to press on with the project.

The Nelson Cycle Lift Society, which is behind the proposed gondola project from the Brook Valley to Fringed Hill, undertook the study with a $15,000 grant from the Nelson City Council.

The study has found the project initially sound geologically, economically and in its engineering.

The society's chairman, Jo Rainey, said the report was positive but more extensive work was needed.

"It fundamentally established from a geotech point of view this will work. Another key piece of work was engineering - is it feasible to put a gondola on that site and the answer is an overwhelming yes to that.

"In fact, it's come out more favourably financially than we had anticipated," he said.

Rainey said "very, very" conservative numbers were used to evaluate the economic viability of the gondola.

Two models were made from existing visitor numbers to the region, with one estimate using 10 per cent of visitors using the gondola and one a more liberal 12 per cent.

Rainey said that about 40 per cent of visitors to Rotorua and Queenstown were using the gondolas there.

"If we get anywhere near that it would be really great," he said.

Both models proved the gondola would be profitable, but the 10 per cent one would need 50 per cent of its equity to require no financial return.

Rainey said the society was also moving away from a secondhand gondola option to a new one, which "was a big step forward".

Two new gondolas will be looked at - a faster $8.7 million system or a slower $6.7m option. The "pulse" system would take longer to complete a circuit, but but would not require as much infrastructure.

At this stage the society was not looking for funding from central or local government, but wanted to sit down with the council as the landowner of the area to see if it supported the project.

"We've now got to determine what the council position is - all for it or definitely not - and if the city wants to get behind it. Then we are going to basically time the project out to achieving a resource consent," Rainey said.

Nelson mayor Rachel Reese said the proposal still had a long way to go and she could not say whether the council was behind the project until they discussed it at tomorrow's council meeting.

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The council had not been asked for funding and the mayor had no view on it, but she would be seeking advice from staff about its economic viability.

"I think the better thing would be for the trust to see whether they have wider community support for funding opportunities and it may be, with the government's interest in growing cycle tourism, there is an opportunity here for central government funding," she said

Reese said the proximity of the proposed gondola to the CBD was good and the idea was a great fit for the city.

"In principle, I am interested in things that provide a point of difference for Nelson. I am interested in things that are a good fit for our climate and our lifestyle," she said.

She called the region's cycling capabilities extraordinary and said the city needed "to leverage off" its natural advantages.

Reese said there was no connection between the Brook Valley camp's situation and the proposed project, but said there was a need to think about a broader understanding of the opportunities and areas in the Brook Valley to manage camping opportunities, the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary, and proposals such as the gondola and their impacts.

Rainey said the starting site of the gondola at the Brook Valley camp was a sensitive topic that he could not comment on.

- The Nelson Mail

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