Details needed on gondola proposal

Last updated 12:58 05/06/2014

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OPINION: It is 47 years since the first gondola trundled up to Bob's Peak from a paddock in Queenstown. Since then, millions of people have bobbed up to the restaurant - the attraction boasted of its 10-millionth passenger in 2005.

The brightly-coloured bubble cars that earned international renown during its first two decades were replaced with a more subdued Austrian-built system in 1987, and the addition of luge tracks shortly before the start of the new millennium brought another dimension to New Zealand's best known tourist ride.

While it is claimed that upwards of 40 per cent of visitors use the gondola there and at a sister operation at Rotorua, most locals will also have taken a ride, at least once. As gaudy as the original bubble-cars seemed to locals worried that the resort had gone to "the dark side", Queenstown's scenic splendour seems to have survived the indignities.

Similar angst is likely from some quarters as the push to build a gondola from Brook Valley up Fringed Hill grows.

While Nelson is the seaside equivalent of Queenstown's mountain-lake picture perfect setting, logging activities around the city's backdrop mean the overall setting is anything but pristine in many places.

Given the likelihood that the proposal will be polarising, it is time for the proponents to lock down and release vital details.

The first big question is where, precisely, would the gondola lift - base and top stations and seven intermediate towers - be located. A consulting engineers' report says the preferred route is from the Brook Valley Motor Camp to a spot just below the Fringed Hill summit, although other options exist.

Though around half of the preferred lift length would run behind a ridge, the rest would most likely be visible from the city centre. However, it would certainly be much less obtrusive than the Queenstown operation.

Then there is the issue of funding the $10-million project. Perhaps it is most likely to be similar to Queenstown's - run privately, with a negotiated lease or - perhaps - a profit-sharing arrangement with the Nelson City Council as landowner.

The council's initial $15,000 grant for a feasibility study can be justified in terms of it being an investment which might lead to significant returns coming from council land which would otherwise make little or no returns to the city coffers.

However, the council should not get involved in further funding of a private venture. That is not its business at all - though perhaps some venture capital might be sourced from central government.

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Also needing clarity is what impact, if any, the venture might have on the Brook Valley camp. Residents have been elbowed around too much already as councillors ponder the camp's future.

The decision to call for a wider management plan of the upper Brook area is timely. That said, the gondola concept is promising. It would help cement the region's place as a cycling and mountainbiking centre of international interest. The future is exciting, if not for the beleaguered Brook Camp residents.

- The Nelson Mail

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