The creation of a $50 million gondola experience up Fringed Hill could be Nelson’s biggest and most ambitious biggest tourism project ever.
Recently released artist impressions of the newly renamed Koata Park project showcases the top station of the gondola, which will sit 630 metres above sea level and overlook the Maitai Valley and Nelson and Tasman Bays.
The proposal represents perhaps the city’s biggest ever development of its kind, a notion which is not no lost the man tasked with bringing it to a reality.
Hemi Toia, chair of the park development company, revealed to the Nelson Weekly that the project is budgeted to cost between $45 and $50 million. It has also been expanded from just an experience for mountain bikers to something that has a much broader audience, with conservation at its heart.
“This is ambitious, this is huge,” says Hemi. “But you’ve got to be ambitious and that’s why we have to have people from the Nelson region behind it.”
The development has been renamed Koata Park to recognise Ngati Koata as the landowner and to better reflect the focus on the local nature and cultural experience.
Hemi says they have already raised $8 million from the iwi and other investors and now they were looking for more people and organisations to throw their money behind the project.
“It is a city investment; this is not a Koata project it’s a project, of the city. It needs to be viewed that way.”
The idea for a gondola in Nelson has been around for many years, since first being floated by the Nelson Cycle Lift Society. Three years ago, Nelson City Council voted to provide $50,000 for the project’s pre-commercial business case. Subsequently, Fringed Hill was deemed to be the most suitable location.
An economic impact assessment released last year, before Ngati Koata’s expanded concept, said total value added from the project was estimated to be $3.8 million for year one increasing to $7.3 million at year ten. The report also said that the proposed attraction would achieve at least 160,000 visits per year after ten years’ operation.
“There is the realistic potential for the attraction to reach close to 200,000 visits after ten years.”
The gondola would be 1.3km long and take about five minutes to reach the top. The development would be designed to have broad appeal for visitors of all ages and expectations with magnificent 230-degree views from the mountains, over the city and out to the sea.
“It’s going to take time and a lot of money,” Hemi says. “It’s not about getting it done quickly, it’s about getting it done right.”
He says that there was still a resource consent process to go through but optimistically hoped to be building by 2021.