2 of New Zealand’s largest resorts on the brink of bankruptcy after 3 difficult years caused by Covid-19 and poor snowfall

Sky Waka Gondola from Mount Ruapehu Ski Resort. Credit: henrymagazine.nz

Ruapehu Alpine Lifts Limited (RAL), the company that operates the Whakapapa and Tūroa ski areas in New Zealand’s central North Island, has gone into voluntary administration. The company had no choice after a government bailout request was rejected.

In a Press release this morning, John Fisk and Richard Nacey of PwC, the appointed volunteer administrators, blamed three problematic years which included covid-19 restrictions and bad snow.

“The company has had a very difficult past three years, with the impact of Covid-19 restrictions, coupled with bad weather this season, meaning the business has been placed under significant cash pressure.”

– Volunteer Administrator John Fisk

The company employs approximately 196 people in the Whakapapa and Tūroa ski areas. At the start of the season, they had 405 employees before the poor season led to layoffs.

New Zealand, Mount Ruapehu,
Tūroa trail map.

After opening on July 8, 2022, Tūroa closed early this season due to a lack of snow. Warm temperatures and rain contributed to “the worst ski season in decades”. The ski area closed ‘until further notice’ at the end of August but reopened after a major snowstorm earlier in the month. There has been no snow since then, and with the gloomy forecast, Tūroa closed for the season on Sunday, October 9.

Whakapapa will continue to operate as scheduled, weather permitting, until the estimated season closes Oct. 24, according to a Facebook post. All three T bars – Valley, Knoll and Far West – will operate, as well as the Sky Waka gondola for access and sightseeing.

RAL explored several options, including a capital increase and applying for additional Crown funding, but were unable to secure the required level of capital. As such, the directors have decided to appoint volunteer directors. Voluntary administrators will now continue to negotiate the business while seeking to determine the most appropriate path to maximize recoveries for creditors. The company owes $15 million to the Department for Business and Innovation (MBIE) and has a $6 million loan from ANZ Bank. Other creditors include ski and snowboard company Burton Australia, Fletcher Steel, Steel & Tube, Bridgewater and several finance companies. The company’s total debt is over $30 million.

The voluntary administrators will now prepare a report on the financial situation of the company which will be presented to the creditors shortly.

The ski areas are among the largest in New Zealand and were once the busiest in the country. If they closed it would leave the North Island without a large ski area.

Map showing the location of Mount Ruapehu, New Zealand

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