Tūwharetoa Māori Trust Board announced its partnership with premier outdoor experience operator Chris Jolly Outdoors, in a move it says further bolsters its strong commercial and tourism presence on Lake Taupō.
It comes after the Board invested $9.5 million into Whakapapa Ski Field's Sky Waka, New Zealand’s most technically advanced gondola, and its purchase in November 2017 of the Lake Taupō Hole in One Challenge.
Trust Board CEO Topia Rameka says the new investment reaffirms the Trust Board’s desire to have a stronger authentic indigenous offering on Lake Taupō, and it will also provide employment opportunities for Tūwharetoa people.
“The opportunities are real, and we are excited about what the future holds through this partnership,” says Mr Rameka.
“We’re proud to be continuing to grow our presence on Lake Taupō.”
Chris Jolly Outdoors CEO Simon Jolly says in recent years the company has focused on promoting Māori culture as part of its tourism experience and is delighted to partner with Tūwharetoa Māori Trust Board.
“Our experience in the tourism industry coupled with our respect for the rich history of Lake Taupō and the Central North Island will help us enhance our already significant offering,” he says.
“We’re thrilled with this new partnership, which will enable our visitors to establish a deeper connection with the region.”
Mr Rameka says the Trust Board plans to continue to grow its involvement in tourism offerings on Lake Taupō, to enable Tūwharetoa to be directly involved in the wellbeing of its taonga.
“It is important that we take a leadership role as to how our lake is treated, sustained and protected – and this is a direct way for us to act as kaitiaki to both our moana and our manuhiri (visitors).
“Tourism in the Taupō region continues to show significant growth year on year.
“We are pleased to play a part in supporting this exciting growth, which can only be a good thing for our region, our people, and the wider community.”
The new Sky Waka at Whakapapa Sky Field on Mt Ruapehu opened in July.
The Tūwharetoa Gondola Limited Partnership (TGLP) is made up of experienced investors from various Ngāti Tūwharetoa commercial entities.
TGLP Chairperson Rakeipoho Taiaroa said, “An investment like this allows us to be a part of the story and have an ongoing connection with our maunga. Ruapehu Alpine Lifts (RAL) is one of the biggest employers of our people all year round, the environmental footprint on the maunga has been reduced through removal and consolidation of old infrastructure. Most of the investors are Tuwharetoa land trusts that surround the northern side of the mountain so naturally have a very close connection with the maunga.”
RAL chief executive Ross Copland said the huge contribution from TGLP is what ultimately allowed the project to progress.
“We simply couldn’t have done it without the support and vision of Ngāti Tūwharetoa’s network of experienced investors who quickly connected the dots between the economic, social and cultural opportunities that could be leveraged through this key asset in their rohe,” he said.
The entities investing in the TGLP include Waihi Pukawa Trust, Tūwharetoa Māori Trust Board, Lake Taupō Forest Trust, Tūwharetoa Settlement Trust, Lake Rotoaira Forest Trust, Lake Rotoaira Trust, Te Pae O Waimihia Trust and Ngāti Tūwharetoa Fisheries Charitable Trust.
The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) announced in June 2018 it would provide a $10 million loan to Ruapehu Alpine Lifts Ltd for the construction of the new gondola. At the time, Regional Economic Development Minister Hon. Shane Jones said, “The project has been identified through the Manawatū-Whanganui Accelerate 25 plan and the Ruapehu Regional Visitor Development Plan as key to boosting the local economy. It is easy to see why – the economic potential is significant and Ruapehu Alpine Lifts is committed to recruiting locally. The Gondola has the potential to be the linchpin investment creating the ‘must do’ attraction around which other investments would work.”
New Zealand Māori Tourism Chief Executive Pania Tyson-Nathan attended the opening of the Sky Waka gondola in July.