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Snowed in: $4m bailout for Ruapehu Alpine Lifts

Publish Date
Wed, 2 Nov 2022, 9:04AM
Photo / File
Photo / File

Snowed in: $4m bailout for Ruapehu Alpine Lifts

Publish Date
Wed, 2 Nov 2022, 9:04AM


Embattled skifield operator Ruapehu Alpine Lifts has received a $4 million rescue package - partly with help from the Government - as it tries to make it to the next ski season.

The voluntary administrators who took over the company last month have ruled its existing management can't stay on.

RAL is snowed in about $40 million debt, and needs another $9m to keep its Turoa and Whakapapa skifields operating.

Voluntary administrator John Fisk announced the lifeline bank loans on Nine to Noon yesterday.

"We have now just confirmed with the Crown and ANZ that they will provide emergency funding to get us through to before Christmas," he said.

"That will give us some time to put together a plan to ensure that we give the best possible opportunity to open again in 2023."

Fisk said the $4 million would help RAL keep staff over summer to prepare the mountain for the winter.

"There's an awful lot of maintenance that needs to go on over that period," he said.

It would also buy "breathing space" for the administrators to come up restructure plans, he said.

It's unclear how much of the money comes from ANZ, and how much from the Government.

Just last month Economic and Regional Development Minister Stuart Nash expressly ruled out any more government bank loans for RAL, having already contributed $15 million for construction of the Sky Waka gondola in 2018.

Nash said yesterday Cabinet had given a mandate to MBIE's Provincial Development Unit Kanoa, to lead negotiations with ANZ and other bondholders to try support the continued operation of the skifield at Mt Ruapehu "with the associated community and regional benefits".

ANZ declined RNZ's requests for comment.

Nevertheless, Ruapehu mayor Weston Kirton said he was grateful the Government was coming to the table.

"We appreciate the urgency [with which] the Government has given support. Of course it's worrying for the local community that the future of our winter skiing and snow next year is going to be difficult," he said.

But Kirton conceded it was only a band-aid solution.

The question remains who will run the skifields next year.

Fisk told Nine to Noon PWC hadn't "actively sought" interest from other skifield operators but it had received inquiries.

The skifields won't be handed back to RAL in its current state, he said.

"We're not going to be handing the company back to the existing shareholders and management. There's just too much debt in the company," he said.

"What's clear is that the vehicle that has been operating the mountain to date is not viable in the future. What we need to do is get the operation into a new vehicle that's recapitalised and meets the needs for future operation."

RAL needs another $9m dollars to keep its two skifields operating.  Photo / NZME

RAL needs another $9m dollars to keep its two skifields operating. Photo / NZME

Meanwhile, there's still a $5m funding gap to bridge to keep RAL going until snow returns next year.

Some of the 14,000 people who own lifetime passes to the two skifields, believe they could be the solution.

The Ruapehu shareholders and life pass holders group has been surveying members to see who would chip in money to keep the skifields open.

Spokesperson Sam Clarkson said the answer was "a clear yes, from a large number of life pass holders".

"The feedback has come back very clearly that most are willing to keep Ruapehu going."

Clarkson said selling regular ski passes for next season could also go a long way to help - as long as buyers could have confidence there would be a next season.

He also hoped to see the Sky Waka gondola in full swing over summer, to cash in on the international tourism market.

"The Sky Waka has not had a chance to stretch its legs yet. Since it was built we haven't actually had a summer with open borders, no restrictions. It would be a shame not to show what it's worth," he said.

Fisk said before Christmas there would be a "watershed" meeting of creditors.

They would be presented with a restructure plan for RAL and asked whether to accept it, or if they wanted to enter into liquidation.

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