Sky­line En­ter­prises to ad­vance in­ves­ti­ga­tions for a Franz Josef Glacier gon­dola

Adventure - - Dispatched - At present the only way to ex­plore the glacier is by he­li­copter

Lead­ing New Zealand tourism com­pany Sky­line En­ter­prises has em­barked on an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the devel­op­ment of a gon­dola sys­tem to view the Franz Josef Glacier. Fol­low­ing dis­cus­sions with the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion and other par­ties, the com­pany will now fully study the in­stal­la­tion of a gon­dola in or­der to make pub­lic ac­cess to the glacier eas­ier and more af­ford­able. As owner of res­i­dent he­li­copter tourism op­er­a­tions based at Franz and Fox on the West Coast, Sky­line is well aware of the changes to the glaciers, which sig­nif­i­cantly limit pub­lic ac­cess. “The Franz Josef Glacier was in a state of ad­vance un­til 2008 when it be­gan re­treat­ing. Fol­low­ing a spec­tac­u­lar col­lapse of the ter­mi­nal face in 2012, it is now only ac­ces­si­ble by he­li­copter to land and walk on the Glacier,” Sky­line En­ter­prises Chair­man Mark Quick­fall says. “This pre­vents many vis­i­tors from ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the Glacier up close – out­side of view­ing from the base – un­less they take a flight, which is not al­ways an op­tion due to weather con­di­tions and cost.” The in­ves­ti­ga­tion will take into ac­count a num­ber of im­por­tant fac­tors and is de­pen­dent on sat­is­fy­ing con­sid­er­a­tions in­clud­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal mit­i­ga­tion, plus tech­ni­cal and eco­nomic fea­si­bil­ity. Sky­line will con­sult a wide range of stake­hold­ers in this re­gard, in­clud­ing Te Ru­nanga o Makaawhio, Ngai Tahu, Franz Josef Com­mu­nity Coun­cil, West Coast Tai Pou­tini Con­ser­va­tion Board, West­land District Coun­cil, alpine groups, recre­ational users and all other rel­e­vant par­ties. “In­ves­ti­ga­tions, plan­ning, con­sul­ta­tion and se­cur­ing sup­port from a wide range of stake­hold­ers will de­ter­mine if the po­ten­tial in­stal­la­tion of the Gon­dola is re­al­is­tic. This will take time, com­mit­ment and pa­tience,” Mr Quick­fall ex­plains. The pos­i­tive flow-on ef­fect to the Franz Josef and West Coast com­mu­ni­ties and the New Zealand econ­omy, bal­anced against the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts, will be fully measured. The gon­dola sys­tem would run ad­ja­cent to and above the Glacier. The tow­ers would be anchored to land and rock, not ice. In­ter­pre­ta­tion of glaciers and sur­rounds will be a key com­po­nent of the con­cept. Sim­i­lar in­ter­pre­ta­tion projects have been suc­cess­fully de­signed and built in sen­si­tive ar­eas glob­ally. Sky­line will con­tinue to en­gage with the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion on the West­land Na­tional Park Man­age­ment Re­view to de­ter­mine if the gon­dola sys­tem can be per­mit­ted, should all en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues be sat­is­fied. Un­til sig­nif­i­cant progress has been made with the tech­ni­cal and eco­nomic vi­a­bil­ity, and fur­ther en­gage­ment with the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion, lo­cal ru­nanga and con­ser­va­tion board, Sky­line is not in a po­si­tion to pro­vide de­tailed in­for­ma­tion. Sky­line will be invit­ing in­ter­ested par­ties to regis­ter their in­ter­est, al­low­ing them to be kept in­formed on progress. In­for­ma­tion ses­sions will also be held in Franz Josef in Oc­to­ber.

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