The new Sky Waka gondola on Mt Ruapehu has been given a $1.5 million boost by a local trust.

BayTrust has announced it will invest $1.5m towards construction of the new gondola.

The new gondola has promised to boost year-round tourism and create up to 150 fulltime jobs in the region.

Local iwi and the Government's Provincial Growth Fund are also investing in the $25m project so a 1.8km gondola featuring fully-enclosed cabins can transport 2400 passengers an hour from Whakapapa's existing ski base up to the Knoll Ridge Cafe.


The Sky Waka gondola replaces the Waterfall Express Quad Chairlift and will require only 14 lift towers, therefore significantly reducing the amount of physical infrastructure present and overall environmental impact on the mountain, which is regarded as a taonga in the region.

BayTrust's decision to invest in Ruapehu Alpine Lift's Sky Waka project is part of its overall strategy to increase the impact it can make in the Bay of Plenty, above and beyond its ability to grant money to charities and other community organisations.

Impact Investment and partnership manager Terri Eggleton said 6 per cent of BayTrust's total investment portfolio was now set aside to directly invest in projects that provide both an economic return and a social impact.

"The biggest impact of this project is the number of jobs it will create in the Taupō and Turangi districts," she said.

"There's a shortage of job opportunities for youth in those areas so this will help to create employment and prosperity for a region that really does need it.

"Because the gondola is now enclosed, it's able to operate all year round. It's much more attractive for people who aren't skiers because they'll be more comfortable and able to enjoy the scenery. Ruapehu Alpine Lifts are expecting a significant increase in non-skiing visitors and that will provide more year-round employment and more year-round income for local businesses and the community."

Ruapehu Alpine Lifts chief executive Ross Copland welcomed the investment from BayTrust.

"The Sky Waka development project has been entirely funded externally, which demonstrates the importance of this development to our local community via job creation and a reduction in seasonality. Bringing a world-class visitor attraction to the region will also have many flow-on effects to the local visitor economy and we're very grateful for the support of BayTrust in investing in this key project."

The new high-speed Sky Waka was due to open later this month and would transport people across one of the North Island's most rugged and spectacular landscapes past waterfalls and snow-laden peaks.


The 50 cabins all feature floor to ceiling glass windows, internal ski racks, audio, lighting and individual leather seats. Each cabin can accommodate 10 passengers and even the tallest skiers will be able to stand upright with more than 2m of internal clearance.

Eggleton said BayTrust was privileged to be able to make impact investments that benefit the Bay of Plenty community and welcomes contact from people who wish to discuss potential opportunities.

"There are three areas we're looking to invest in – projects that are beneficial to the environment, projects that are going to create economic stimulation and employment opportunities (particularly in areas where employment opportunities are minimal), and thirdly in the social/affordable housing space.

"We have a number of potential investments in the pipeline at the moment and we're very pleased to help support Ruapehu Alpine Lifts with their Sky Waka endeavour."