A petition to end the toll road to the Remarkables Conservation area is on track to get 2000 signatures, 24 hours after the new charge was imposed on visitors.

Yesterday NZSki's $10 toll came into effect for every vehicle being driven to the Remarkables conservation area.

Summer visitors to the popular Queenstown range now face the prospect of paying, unless they climb the slope by foot or by bicycle.

NZSki says the toll was introduced as a way to pay for road maintenance.

Advertisement

The company has invested over $20m over the 13km stretch of road since it took over the running of the ski fields.

The company's chief executive Paul Anderson said the toll was introduced because the road did not qualify for funding under the Government's international visitor levy.

In summer the road is used by up to 200 cars a day, reports the ODT.

The Remarkables Road will now have a $10 toll per vehicle. Photo / Josh Withers, Unsplash
The Remarkables Road will now have a $10 toll per vehicle. Photo / Josh Withers, Unsplash

However, local outdoor groups have opposed the new summer toll, saying it blocks access to conservation land.

Queenstown Climbing Club and Federated Mountain Clubs of New Zealand started a community petition to guarantee free access to the land, and for DOC to re-classify the conservation land.

The petition appeals to "NZ Ski's social and moral responsibilities to maintain free and full public year-round road access."

The group also refer to previous incidents in 2015 where the company has blocked off-access to the conservation land as "totally unjust."

Paul Anderson, CEO of NZSki responded to petition saying the road was closed "for a short time in 2015" after safety concerns were raised by a contractor working on NZSki construction projects.

Advertisement

"During this time NZSki provided free-of-charge bus transport to the base area to ensure public access was maintained," Anderson told the Herald.

Anderson estimates the toll will raise between $40k and $80k a year, which is around a quarter of the annual road maintenance costs of $350,000.

"With an increasing numbers of summer patrons, it is fair that these users make a contribution to the upkeep of the road."

The Remarkables Road is not a public road but a legal easement, providing access to the conservation area over privately owned land.

NZSki Remarkables Manager for Ross Lawrence said in a post to the company's social media that the introduction of a charge was about "safety and better maintenance", and paying for projects such as putting metal safety rails up and sealing the road surface.

The access route was built by the Mount Cook Group in the 1980s to provide access to the ski fields. During this time the Mount Cook Line operated a toll booth for road users.

The Remarkables Conservation Area and your rights

The Remarkables were recognised by DOC as a Conservation Area for alpine ecology and "unique flora and fauna" under the Conservation Act, which DOC refers to as the "weakest protection of the conservation categories."

Since the 1977s there has been a campaign to reclassify the Remarkables as a National Park which would grant public freedom of entry and access.

DOC said that NZSki is currently within its right to operate a toll on the Remarkables Road and have deemed the $10 fee appropriate.

"Our revenue team have looked into the charge and are comfortable that $10 per vehicle is reasonable considering the cost to create and maintain an alpine road," said a DOC spokesperson.

NZ Ski's toll will be in effect between 16 December and 30 April.

Foot traffic and cyclists will not be charged.