RAL has been asked by the Department of Conservation and Ngati Hikairo ki Tuwharetoa to implement a car park booking system to control congestion, manage demand and spread arrival times for visitors to Tongariro National Park. Capacity management will improve and optimise the visitor experience in accessing the national park and ski areas, and to match this access to an enjoyable on ski area experience.
This process has been initiated by DOC and has their full support. DOC is able to manage vehicle access to implement a parking regime at Whakapapa and Turoa ski areas under section 51a of the National Parks Act. This enables the Minister of Conservation to authorise a person to do anything that the Minister considers appropriate for the proper and beneficial management, administration and control of the park, provided it is not inconsistent with the management plan.
Bookable car parking has always been seen as an option to manage visitor numbers, and RAL is legally required to manage car parking as part of our concession, which requires us to regulate traffic movement. DOC supports the implementation of this system as a legal way to manage demand as it will help to reduce congestion and safety risks at both ski areas, and in Whakapapa Village. The public is still able to access Tongariro National Park, just not in their vehicle during peak demand times.
Many of our guests have expressed frustration in recent years with congestion on the access roads and the inability to secure their space ahead of time on peak days, and we feel this change will ensure fair and equitable access to all user groups of the ski areas to plan accordingly for their visit.
This will also create better forward knowledge and data for ski area staff to allow a more predictable and manageable working environment which can be matched to staffing levels, and thereby further enhance both our guests' and employees' experience.