New chairlift by 2015 summer

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as chairlift top stationCONSTRUCTION of the $14 million Arthurs Seat chairlift could start as early as next spring and be completed before the end of 2015, says project chief Simon McKeon.

Mr McKeon, head of Arthurs Seat Skylift, said it was hoped to submit a “package of reports” to Mornington Peninsula Shire and Parks Victoria before the end of the year.

“If all goes well, we’re hoping to get approval by the end of the first quarter of 2014,” he told The News.

“We’ll run a tender process with major chairlift makers such as Poma and Doppelmayr, and hope to start assembly and construction this time next year.”

Mr McKeon said it would be manufactured overseas as there was no one in Australia making gondola chairlifts, but Skylight company would use local builders for top and bottom stations, which would include kiosks/cafes.

The all-gondola lift would arrive in boxes, assembled and lifted into place.

When it opens, it will be more than nine years since the iconic peninsula attraction last operated.

It was permanently shut down by WorkSafe in May 2006 after the last of three major incidents, which included the January 2003 collapse of one of eight pylons that injured 12 people and stranded dozens more.

In March 2004 an elderly woman’s legs were crushed when her chair slid down the cable and collided with another chair.

Mr McKeon said the company had been busy since he addressed a Dromana public meeting in March.

“We’re asking Parks Victoria to invest $1.5 million to improve Arthurs Seat State Park, mainly for extra parking.

“We didn’t want to race ahead.”

He said there had been plans to upgrade the state park for many years.

The existing parking area at the bottom of Arthurs Seat would be redesign­ed to accommodate more vehicles. An existing overflow area would be improved.

A new parking area would be needed at the top, he said.

Arthurs Seat Skylift had commissioned reports to go with approval applications, he said.

“We’ve done reports on such things as erosion, fire, acoustics, the environment, and cultural heritage with only the fire plan yet to be finalised.”

He said Arthurs Seat was a recognised “hot spot” and the company had been consulting with the CFA.

“We’ll be able to get everyone off the chairlift in seven minutes in the event of a fire,” he said. There would be a large tank of water for fighting fires.

A lookout tower would be built as part of stage two.

“We’ll get the chairlift up and running before considering the tower.”

The project will require clearing of a wider corridor up the mountain. The existing corridor is 8-10 metres wide. Mr McKeon said the gondola lift would need about 14 metres.

Trees would be planted after the chairlift had been installed, he said. “We want to plant as close to the chairlift as possible.”

He said Skylift had identified private land next to the state park and would offer it to Parks Victoria as a so-called vegetation offset for any clearing.

Arthurs Seat Skylift was selected by the Brumby Labor government in October 2010 to build a chairlift. It was given a 50-year lease, which required an amendment of the National Parks Act.

At the time, it was hoped the chairlift would be operating by 2013.

Mr McKeon said Skylift hoped the chairlift would be used by a wide variety of people including senior citizens, people with a disability and students. The gondolas would enable people to ride up the mountain in varied weather conditions.

Skylift is aiming to capture the mid-term, midweek market, not just summer.

Mr McKeon – the 2011 Australian of the Year, Macquarie Group Melbourne office executive chairman and CSIRO chairman – said there would be no problem raising the capital. There were four shareholders: Mr McKeon, former aircraft maintenance engineer Hans Brugman and two other men, one of whom is a friend of McKeon’s.

Meanwhile, former chairlift operator Richard Hudson told The News he was still negotiating to install the old chairlift in the Adelaide Hills.

He said “the machine is in a Dromana workshop and has been upgraded”.

The proposal was being considered by the SA government, he said. It had the backing of SA Opposition Leader Steven Marshall.

A proposal to build a new one was being considered by Adelaide Hills Council.

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