Skifield project tipped to bring $1b to Canty

ALAN WOOD
Last updated 05:00 28/02/2012

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A $500 million development at Porters Heights skifield, including a controversial expansion into Crystal Valley, has been given the go-ahead.

The Craigieburn Range skifield project would take at least 10 years to complete and would result in more than $1 billion of economic benefit to the Canterbury region over that time, an economist estimated.

If it gets through the final appeals process, the expansion will lead to further development of the skifield village, and infrastructure additions to Crystal Valley for skiing.

By the winter of 2015 the shareholders plan to put in $60m to develop chairlifts and a gondola lift at the new field.

A further $100m would be spent developing the village property, Porters Ski Area Ltd shareholder Simon Harvey said.

Over a longer period Porters will include a 3400-bed alpine village with a hotel and individual chalets, new skilifts and tows, and a hot pools complex.

Summer hiking and biking activities would also be available.

Commissioners appointed by Environment Canterbury and the Selwyn District Council to consider the plan change and resource consent applications released their decision yesterday.

The resource consents decision is subject to a 15-working-day appeal period and the plan change is subject to a 40-working-day appeal period.

Christchurch-based Green Party list MP Eugenie Sage, who made a submission against the development, said it was a disappointing decision.

Nevertheless, the commissioners had done a thorough job and had made some changes that would alleviate the environmental impact on the area.

"For example, they have put some controls on night-time lighting, they've got controls on aircraft activity – limiting the number of helicopter trips," Sage said.

She did not plan to appeal the decision, which would be a costly process.

The project is being developed by Harvey (a Sydneysider) and four Russian investors – Yuri Koropachinskiy, of Moscow, and Oleg Kirillov, Yury Zelvenskiy and Vladimir Uchitll, all of Siberia.

The Overseas Investment Office-approved investors, who have visited the area and already poured in $10m, say it will bring thousands of tourists to the mountain and Canterbury, and hundreds of jobs to the region.

The Selwyn council private plan change (known as PC25) will rezone 616 hectares of rural high country, including Crystal Valley, into a special "sub zone" that allows skiing and development.

The zone sets aside 21ha for a mountain village, 34ha for wastewater and treatment disposal and the rest for skiing.

The commissioners – Sharon McGarry, Denis Nugent and Greg Ryder – said that by incorporating amendments to PC25 they were satisfied potential adverse environmental effects would be adequately avoided, remedied or mitigated.

Harvey said that after five years of "hard slog" and hurdles, the decision meant proper work is likely to be able to start after this year's ski season.

In terms of the longer term $500m "demand-driven" development, an extra capital raising via potential private equity partners would be explored.

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Porters director of development Michael Sleigh said the commissioners had asked for some amendments to the plan change but these mainly involved the company providing more information on the new Crystal Valley ski trails, and how the company would mitigate any environmental impact from these.

"At full capacity it could cope with 300,000 skiers over a season, which would be like Coronet Peak," Sleigh said.

Economist Geoff Butcher said that by the time the field was fully developed, the wider economic benefit to the region would be $92m a year with 730 fulltime equivalent jobs created.

In the peak winter period the Porters field employed about 50 staff but with the development of the village and Crystal Valley that seasonal number would jump to 500 by 2015, he said.

- The Press

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