Ruapehu Alpine Lifts (RAL) has been granted a new licence to operate Mt Ruapehu's Tūroa, New Zealand's second largest ski area, securing the long term future of the company.
The licence has an initial term of 25 years plus seven five-year extensions totalling 60 years and brings certainty to plans the company has for $100 million of investment in new facilities.
"We're absolutely thrilled to reach this historic agreement together with Ngāti Rangi, Uenuku and the Department of Conservation," said Ruapehu Alpine Lifts chief executive Ross Copland.
"With less than five years to run on the existing licence, it was essential that we reached this agreement to allow us to invest, ensuring that Tūroa continues to anchor the winter economy of Ohakune and the wider Ruapehu region."
Both Whakapapa and Tūroa Ski Areas on Mt Ruapehu are operated by RAL, which also owns the assets of the two ski areas.
The company has already invested about $23m in what will eventually be a $100m capital spend. So far that investment has been focused on the Whakapapa ski field, which the company renewed the licence for in late 2015.
That had involved two new quad chairlifts, three new beginners lifts, new elevators, snow making equipment and new offices.
"A lot of the investment decisions have centred on trying to minimise the number of closed days," Copland said. "There have only been four or five closed days at Whakapapa this season, that's a dramatic turnaround from last season."
Snow making capacity had more than doubled at Whakapapa and plans were well advanced for a 1.8km gondola that may open in time for the 2018 ski season.
The focus would now shift to Tūroa where major upgrades were planned for chairlifts and restaurant facilities.
Ngāti Rangi chair Shar Amner, and Uenuku chair Aiden Gilbert said they both looked forward to working with RAL.
The new licence includes protection of the peaks, waterways and their sources. The Iwi chairs said upholding their cultural values has been paramount to discussions.
There had been uncertainty about the future and that had previously limited the ability of the company to invest, Copland said.
"We've busted through that now."
RAL is an unlisted public company. Shareholders do not receive dividends and shares don't appreciate in value with profits reinvested in development of the fields and the region.