Ziptrek Ecotours has reviewed the Environment Court decision on an application by Skyline Enterprises Ltd to operate a helipad adjacent to the gondola building on Bob’s Peak, Queenstown.
Last week Judge Jon Jackson and Commissioner Kathryn Edmonds released a decision allowing up to four helicopter landings a day in a five-year consent – overturning a 2011 decision in which Queenstown Lakes District Council appointed commissioners approved up to 3160 landings a year and a maximum of 15 flights a day once a week. The decision to reduce flight numbers was based on safety and noise concerns.
Bob’s Peak is home to many tourism activities including Ziptrek Ecotours’ multi-award-winning zipline operation, which launched in 2009.
Ziptrek founder and Executive Director Trent Yeo said a decision by the company to appeal to the Environment Court was “not taken lightly”, but came about due to genuine fact-based concerns about overall safety management on the hillside high above Queenstown.
“On more than one occasion we have talked to Skyline about options for better safety management. The safety of visitors to the area has always been Ziptrek’s primary concern.
“The Environment Court has taken all the facts and evidence into consideration in issuing this judgment, and we would like to make it clear that Ziptrek did not set flight numbers.
“The Court has made a decision that is a direct and objective response to the evidence that was laid out by both parties.
“We appreciate that the ruling has taken some in the Queenstown business community by surprise. While we felt after a number of years of discussions and mediation that we had no other option other than to take the stance we did, we recognise the significance of Skyline as the main operator on the hill creating transport and other tourism experiences in the area.
“In the course of that process, concerns have also been raised about noise and other effects on other users,” he said. “However Ziptrek’s view is first and foremost based on safety management in relation to positive tourism growth.”
Mr Yeo said Ziptrek would like to have a “good working relationship” with Skyline as complementary businesses both working on Bob’s Peak, taking into account the overarching values of the Ben Lomond and Queenstown Hill Management Plan.
“Tourism numbers have increased around the country and nowhere more so than in Queenstown,” he said. “Bob’s Peak represents many areas of New Zealand as tourism becomes increasingly part of the landscape.
“This is the busiest location for recreational and commercial paragliding in New Zealand and now the hill also contains the Queenstown Mountain Biking trail; a huge asset to our community but numbers are growing exponentially there too.
“Helicopters need a place to safely operate which isn’t in potential direct conflict with any other users, operators or guests, especially as in effect they require ‘exclusive’ use for the time they’re taking off and landing due to safety barriers.”
All activities on Bobs Peak operate under lease agreements with the Queenstown Lakes District Council.
“This is all about positive management as Queenstown moves towards higher and more complex sites for recreational and commercial activity.
“Beautiful places should be safe places, and business growth should never be at the potential cost or risk of peoples’ safety.”
Mr Yeo said Ziptrek was open to further constructive conversations.
“We hope the tourism industry stands together on matters of safety. We seek happy cohabitation and we offer a hand to Skyline to start dialogue about how our businesses can help build some of the best examples of tourism cooperation not only in the country, but in the world.”