Ngāti Rangi chair Whetu Moataane was clearly surprised yesterday when teaomāori.news asked him if his iwi should buy the troubled Ruapehu Alpine Lifts.
Ruapehu Alpine Lifts is in voluntary administration and blaming its losses on poor winter seasons and Covid-19.
The company runs the Whakapapa and Turoa skifields on Ruapehu and has 196 staff. Its financial troubles are expected to have a flow-on effect for local businesses, residents and iwi, despite government Covid-19 support of $9 million.
The Ministry of Social Development was already working with staff to place 400 staff whose jobs were cut in August.
But should Ngāti Rangi buy Ruapehu Alpine Lifts?
Moataane: “That's a big question, my friend. Should Ngāti Rangi buy the company? That's another discussion. Our focus at the moment, and Ruapehu Alpine Lifts knows this, is the Tongariro National Park claim. That's our main focus and the focus of all the surrounding tribes.”
But he conceded that in time Ngāti Rangi would answer that question.
He said the iwi signed an agreement in September 2007 with the company.
“This agreement was about everything happening with Mt Ruapehu and it gave Ngāti Rangi a space to give our feedback, our own hopes and aspirations for our mountain.
Other tourism activities
“It also gave us insight into what the company was doing on our mountain.
“With that, we created a committee called Te Pae Toka. The members were from our tribe and director of the company. They also had an independent chair, Jamie Tuuta. The role of Te Pae Toka is to implement and uphold the tikanga of Ngāti Rangi and lead the KPIs of Ruapehu Lifts and its work on Ruapehu. We're still involved in that committee.”
Moataane said Ruapehu Lifts was a” big business here, and we feel for RAL, the staff and the community.
The iwi was concerned for the wider community and tourism in the area.
”But skiing isn't the only tourist attraction. There are other activities visitors can come here and do."
But he said Ngāti Rangi had always wanted to implement its environmental strategy so Ruapehu could return to its original state.
“So that's what the tribe has to do. We have to do that to return its true beauty for our future generations.”