Regional | Ngāti Rangi

Ngāti Rangi tells business ministry it wants to be part of Ruapehu Alpine Lifts, Chateau Tongariri plans

Ngāti Rangi, the mana whenua of Mount Ruapehu says it has not been consulted about the future of Ruapehu Alpine Lifts, which operates the Whakapapa and Tūroa skifields in the central North Island but is now in voluntary administration after Covid-19 lockdowns and a poor ski season.

The iwi’s chief executive, Helen Leahy, says it has been given some information more recently about Chateau Tongariro Hotel, in the Tongariro National Park, which was closed by its operator last Sunday over unsafe buildings. The operator’s lease expired three years ago.

She says the iwi “hasn’t been involved at this point in what the future looks like”.

But Ngāti Rangi does want to be involved in both matters.

“Our board met this week - Te Tōtarahoe o Paerangi. For its members the message is clear. The way to reference knowing what it is to be Ngāti Rangi is in our five-year plan, Kākā te whare toka Tōtarahoe o Paerangi hoki ko au, that notion that we are igniting the spirit in this majestic landscape.

'Close discussions'

“This provides every reason for us to be involved at every stage of any interaction with the environment and with the commercial interest for the people and so we wrote as a board to the Ministry of Business and reinforced our interest in being involved in what happend in relation to the skifields but also, of course, to the Chateau".

Leahy says the iwi has been in “close discussions” with the skifields’ voluntary administrator and the Ministry of Business.

“Our view is that we don’t want to operate a skifield but we are very concerned about how the skifield operates so we want to see any operator treads lightly, so the footprint is reduced and any redundant structures are removed in a way Ngāti Rangi is happy with. But it’s also about actually acting respectfully for Koro Ruapehu, acting in a culturally respectful way, supporting  the connection between Ngāti Rangi and Koro and also protecting the water sources so the puna (springs) and other water bodies on the maunga are also taken into consideration.”

But the chief executive warns that with Treaty negotiations delayed over Tongariro National Park,  the skifield couldn’t be redeveloped “without being mindful of the importance of the Kahui Maunga, so that means all the iwi who have an interest have to be involved in these discussions.

“It’s not just for Ngāti Rangi to determine, and so we work as a cluster of maunga. It’s a whakapapa right and responsibility and we will not resile from that.”

Cycleway to the sea

Leahy says Ngāti Rangi has the most beautiful environment for tourists, for manuhiri.

“We are very excited about Te Ara Mangawhero – the Mountains to the Sea mountain bike cycleway we are establishing but we are also interested in the concept of the southern gateway. How do Māori coming into the rohe know they are at the foot of Ngāti Rangi, the foot of Ruapehu? So there is so much potential in tourism in sport and recreation in the environment and we want absolutely to be up for that conversation.”

She says the cycleway is something the iwi wants to do as guardian of the landscape.

“It’s about being a sporting physical environment but a cultural environment as well.”

When Ngāti Rangi had a relationship with Ruapehu Alpine Lifts, “we talked about not just operating a skifield but also the environment has to be really healthy, has to be sustainable and, of course, it is about the tangata whenua.”

Asked what Ruapehu Maunga means to Ngāti Rangi, Leahy says: “It is that notion of Te Whare Toka o Paerangi, the house of Paerangi, which is the metaphor in which everyone of Ngāti Rangi understands the tupuna and the tupuna Koro Ruapehu guides us. He is the source of inspiration but also the source of sustenance for the people. So the relationship is as fundamental as every pepeha is, as fundamental as being part of the environment, which protects and sustains Koro Ruapehu in a way that does with us as well.”