Company accused of ‘privatizing’ Tongariro National Park in skifield trafficking
A row has arisen over preferential parking spaces for skiers on Mount Ruapehu, with a skifield operator accused of “privatizing” Tongariro National Park.
In recent years, winter visitors to the Whakapapa and Tūroa ski areas have experienced traffic jams and long queues after another snow dump.
But a new system offering guaranteed parking to “platinum” season pass holders and life members has infuriated the Federated Mountain Clubs of New Zealand (FMC), advocates of outdoor enthusiasts.
The organization believes that the agreement, announced by skifield operator Ruapehu Alpine Lifts (RAL), is in contradiction with the legislation that governs national parks and disadvantages other users of the mountain, such as trampers.
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RAL has a concession to operate in the park, granted by the Department of Conservation.
CMF President Jan Finlayson said: “Mount Ruapehu is located in Tongariro National Park. It’s a public domain and the National Parks Act … is heavily inspired by the public.
“Concessions are allowed, but commercial tourism must come after conservation and recreation.
“The mountain is an attraction for recreation enthusiasts: ski touring, mountaineering and tramping. The congestion has spread enormously and public transport has failed to meet the needs. “
She said RAL announced the sale of early bird passes that included preferential parking last spring. “Before the sales went live, FMC objected that the sale went beyond what the law allowed. This was an effective privatization of a public good, and it would go against the public spirit of the legislation. “
The three groups held talks, and Finlayson said RAL had agreed to withdraw the lien, but had since backed down.
“This brings us to where we are now. This is akin to a private enterprise restricting access to Muriwai Beach or Hagley Park.
“Asking people to reserve parking and use shuttles is a solution that treats everyone equally. The company’s sales space in the national park, for its own private benefit. This is the heart of the matter.
Connie Norgate, DoC operations manager in Tongariro, said she was comfortable with the RAL system and said the ministry has taken into account the policies and objectives of the National Parks Act and the plan of Tongariro National Park when making the decision regarding the management of congestion on the mountain during the winter months.
In a written statement, she said: “The Department of Conservation has given approval to Ruapehu Alpine Lifts Ltd to continue implementing reservable parking for 2021 to manage visitor numbers and peak hour impacts. “
Norgate said the arrangement was “an extension” of the bookable parking lot tested in 2020.
“We are comfortable with the consultation that RAL has undertaken with park partners / stakeholders to ensure that parking allocation and appropriate access arrangements have been made.
“We see this system as a way to alleviate congestion, which has been a constant problem for us on the mountain during rush hour.”
The RAL concession limits the number of visitors to the ski area to a maximum of 5,500 people per day.
“We recognize that the demand for parking on peak weekends means that it is not always possible for all user groups to obtain parking, regardless of the approach taken,” said Norgate. “We also recognize that RAL needs to run a viable business.”
A spokesperson for the RAL referred Thing to the DoC statement.
He added, “We have started updating our website with information on how parking works this year and will be making further ‘how-to’ updates towards the end of May, well ahead of the start of the year. winter.”
The $ 999 Platinum Season Pass offer is now sold out.
In 2018, Stuff reported on an ongoing battle between corporate and public interests on the mountain.
RAL was criticized when it started charging for snow play, $ 2 for a cup of hot water and $ 10.50 for a punnet of crisps.