Cash sought for study on Nelson gondola

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:00 28/03/2013
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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The group driving plans for a gondola and adventure park in Nelson is about to embark on a study that would look into its feasibility, and has asked the city council for a helping hand.

Jo Rainey, spokesman for the group Nelson Cycle Lift Society Incorporated, which is driving the project, said if it succeeded it stood to become a "world class attraction for a new type of tourism" that would draw mountainbikers and sightseers to the area proposed, above the Brook Valley.

The wheels driving a plan to build a gondola in Nelson had been turning for the past few years, and had now reached the stage of what would be an extensive feasibility study, Mr Rainey said.

The Nelson Mail reported in November 2010 that a private group was looking into setting up a chairlift in Nelson's hills to give easier access for mountainbikers and help turn the city into the biking capital of New Zealand.

Mr Rainey said the area planned for developing what would be "the biggest gondola lift in New Zealand" would be on council land from the Brook Valley to near the top of Fringed Hill. The summit is 800 metres above sea level and currently requires a 5.3-kilometre climb.

Mr Rainey said the gondola would have a 610-metre vertical lift, be 1.6km long, and take about six minutes to reach the top.

"The top terminal of the gondola would be 710m above sea level, and the lift would be 50 per cent bigger overall than the Queenstown gondola," Mr Rainey said.

A restaurant and cafe plus bike hire were also planned to accommodate not just mountainbikers but visitors wishing to take in "the most amazing view out over Tasman Bay", Mr Rainey said.

The society was incorporated in November 2010 and has a core group of volunteers now steering the project which includes Mr Rainey plus other Nelsonians Gilbert Robertson, Tony Quickfall, John Rollston and Mike Watson.

The city council will consider at its meeting next Tuesday a staff recommendation to grant $15,000 toward the feasibility study for the establishment of a gondola and adventure park, subject to a couple of conditions. They include that the society funds the remaining costs of the study and an undertaking to provide the council with the results of the study by the end of December.

Mr Rainey said yesterday that a feasibility study would need to factor in significant geotech issues in the area the gondola was planned, and would acknowledge the sensitivities of the area.

He said Nelson's natural topography lent itself to such a development.

"We are blessed with some of the largest hills next to almost any city in New Zealand.

"There were many issues to look at before moving forward, including tempering the feelings of those who might not appreciate a chairlift on the skyline," Mr Rainey said.

Nelson Mountain Bike Club president Chris Mildon said the concept was "brilliant". He had been helping the group with the idea. "There are some big hoops to jump through with things like consents, but we [the club] support the idea.

"It would definitely also have appeal to the wider public and would be a real drawcard for the region - I believe people would come here if that facility was in place," Mr Mildon said.

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He said some skifields overseas were opening during the summer for mountainbikers and "doing better out of the summer than they do from the winter sports".

Mr Rainey said the outcome of the feasibility study would determine the next steps, including the application for resource consent and the search for commercial partners in the multi-million-dollar venture.

- The Nelson Mail

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