The Government is poised to announce a financial commitment to the $25 million gondola project for a Mt Ruapehu skifield.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones will make the announcement at the Powderhorn Chateau in Ohakune tomorrow morning.

"It's a commercial partnership, not a straight grant," his office said. "It's a key project in the regional action plan, Manawatu-Whanganui Accelerate 25, a key investment priority for the region."

Ruapehu Alpine Lifts intends to install the gondola at Whakapapa ski area between the end of this winter/spring season and the start of next year's.

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The company has applied for economic development funding support for the project and has outlined the expected benefits.

"The economic indicators for the region are compelling with the new gondola expected to contribute $50 million per annum of additional expenditure, and an additional 137 fulltime jobs at Whakapapa in the restaurants, maintenance, sales, retail and transport teams."

Chief executive Ross Copland told the Herald a fortnight ago: "We have almost finalised funding for the project, which will happen in the next two or three weeks."

The gondola will run 1.8km, rising from a new base terminal - beside the cafe at the Top of the Bruce Rd - to a new top terminal beside the Knoll Ridge cafe. The Waterfall chairlift, which runs from the near the top of the Rangatira chairlift to beside the Knoll cafe, will be removed.

The new system will have 50 gondola cabins, each with space for 10 passengers.

"Internal ski racks, leather seats and wi-fi onboard offer business-class luxury to passengers …," Copland has said.

"The gondola will be a revolution for skiers with fewer closed days, improved performance on windy days and a blistering fast trip at 6m per second. In Europe, ski resorts are reporting a shift in preference with skiers choosing the speed and comfort of modern gondola lifts."

At full speed, the ride to Knoll Ridge cafe will take just five minutes.

A drawing of the proposed gondola top station to be erected beside the Knoll Ridge cafe on Mt Ruapehu's Whakapapa ski area.
A drawing of the proposed gondola top station to be erected beside the Knoll Ridge cafe on Mt Ruapehu's Whakapapa ski area.

The existing lifts at RAL's Whakapapa and Turoa resorts are badly affected by Mt Ruapehu's often strong and sometimes extreme winds, suffering many closed days as a result.

RAL hopes the gondola will attract more non-skiers up the mountain - snowman builders and tobogganers in winter, and sightseers and those in wheelchairs year-round.