27 Jun 2023

Ruapehu Alpine Lifts funding: What political parties say

6:15 pm on 27 June 2023
Whakapapa Skifield on Mount Ruapehu.

Photo: Unsplash / Matthew Buchanan

Parties across Parliament seem to agree the funding to keep the Ruapehu skifields operating over winter is not a great look, but needed to happen.

Acting Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni on Monday announced $5 million would be loaned to Ruapehu Alpine Lifts to keep the mountain open for the 2023 ski season, after the business was put into liquidation last week.

At the time, she said the government did not want to have to provide the money, but wanted to ensure New Zealanders could still access Ruapehu.

"We have to step in here because no one else will for the interim, but we are looking to find a longer-term solution."

Shortly after, ACT leader David Seymour suggested it was problem of the government's own creation.

"Where government could have helped is not closing the borders for so long and so harshly, not putting so many rules and regulation on business, and not making it so difficult for people to do business in New Zealand under the RMA and the Employment Relation Act and so on.

ACT New Zealand leader David Seymour

David Seymour Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

"This has become a country where you need government handouts to do business. Increasingly just about everyone's got their hand out - whether it's Australian steel companies, or just about anyone trying to do anything - developing video games for example."

He said the government needed to remove red tape and regulation, remove "wasteful government spending and inflation", and enable business without handouts.

There was also a "serious question to be answered", he said, "over whether the real problem is not the snow going into liquidation. If there isn't enough snow it's very difficult to ski but it should be up to private investors to measure that risk rather than government."

National's leader Christopher Luxon on Tuesday morning said he supported the extra funding.

"I think there's thousands of jobs involved with it, secondarily it's a really big key strategic asset in terms of New Zealand's tourism proposition - so it's appropriate there is some support going in but ultimately the long-term answer lies in a really good commercial deal so the taxpayer's not exposed on an ongoing basis."

He said in principle it was appropriate for the government "at least to keep the asset open, to make sure our tourism proposition's strong and those jobs are in place".

National Party Christopher Luxon after the Budget 2023 announcement.

Christopher Luxon Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

"The long-term proposition is a strong commercial deal with commercial owners that can make the right investments in the asset and also keep those jobs in place."

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson said the priority was the "wellbeing of the maunga", which would ultimately require "actually looking at our industries as a whole and whether we are protecting the maunga and its ecosystems".

Co-leader James Shaw said the government was trying to ensure local towns remained economically viable, and to buy themselves time to do that.

"Like Marama I think the health of the maunga is really important, and ultimately it is going to have to be a commercial decision based on the best of advice about whether or not snow sports continue to be even viable given the changes in the weather pattern."

He agreed that subsidising what was a wealthy sport was not a great look for the government, but "having said that the entire town of Ohakune and National Park do depend on that industry.

"There's not a lot else there, so it's understandable that they would be saying at least for the next year, let's try and make sure no precipitous decisions are made and they're able to work out if there is a plan there and what the transition should be if there needs to be one."

Green Party co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson.

Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

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