Responsible environmental stewardship is an increasingly important aspect of operating a snowsport business within a national treasure such as the Tongariro National Park.
RAL is taking a definitive stance in reducing its environmental footprint on Mt Ruapehu and has introduced a number of measures to ensure a cleaner, greener and more sustainable operation. We will continue to maintain and expand these processes, working with the Department of Conservation and Iwi, to ensure the impact of snow-sports activities on the mountain are minimised wherever possible.
We will update this page as we develop new and greener ways of operating and demonstrate our commitment to reducing the environmental impact upon the mountain.
OUR EMS (ENVIRONMENRAL MANAGEMENT SYSTEM)
This is an overview map of our EMS. It is a system of components that all need to work in harmony and each one is as important as the next. The ‘COG’ icons at the head of each column are easy to identify in the workplace and help our team recognise each component of the system.
ENVIRONMENTAL MONITORING - CHECKING THE STATE OF HEALTH OF RUAPEHU
As part of our mission to achieve Zero Harm to People or Place we have a growing environmental monitoring programme. This covers key measures of environmental health such as water quality, litter density (rubbish in the field), stream health, carparks and storm water discharge systems. The maps below highlight where our key monitoring points are in the Whakapapa and Turoa Ski Area Boundaries.
As part of our efforts to ensure that we are achieving best practice in Environmental Risk Management we worked hard to achieve ISO 14001 certification through TELARC during the winter of 2016. This is an international bench mark and confirms that we are very much on the right track in this area.
RAL WASTE MINIMISATION
RAL is focusing a comprehensive waste minimisation process on the mountain. This starts at the procurement stage when we look at what products we purchase and how we acquire new equipment. We follow the product through it’s life cycle here on the mountain and track it to point of disposal (whether that is to a recycling depot, compost or residual landfill. Reducing waste to a minimum is just good business and RAL is 100% committed to continually working on this aspect of our operation. We are currently working with one of our key suppliers (Coca-cola) to work on improving our consumer waste and recycling handling systems.
Our current strategies include using compostable food packaging materials for sandwich containers etc (whilst still meeting hygiene standards), moving toward a pre-cycling system by using non-disposable cups and glasses in mountain cafes and, wherever possible, ensuring that minimal throwaway items are sold in food and beverage outlets on the mountain, and making sure that recycling bins for plastic, glass and aluminium cans are readily available and accessible. Recycling of oils from deep fryers has been standard practice for a long time.
Recycling of hard objects has also been standard practice, with all steel items, including cables, lift parts and machinery being removed from the mountain and sent for recycling. Damaged concrete from the old Knoll Ridge Café and other older lift tower foundations have been crushed, with the aggregate being reused and the reinforcing steel also sent for recycling. Whilst recycling to this level is expensive it is simply a cost of doing business today and RAL is committed to expanding this aspect of its operation.
This is our in house ground roots initiative to ensure that all waste from within the ski area boundaries is removed each summer. Although this is just part of doing business up here and has been done to some extent for many years, we are now into our 3rd summer of what we have termed ‘Refuse Recovery’. Our aim is to cover all key areas of each ski area using primarily RAL personnel but also working with local (and not so local) schools.
RAL VEGETATION MONITORING
As part of its ongoing study on its environmental impact on Mt Ruapehu RAL has, for many years, had a series of botanical transects established, in Happy Valley at Whakapapa and the Alpine Meadow at Turoa. These transects are continually monitored to check plant life along the line, to ascertain if there is degradation or a diminishing of vegetative life and determine the impact within the two areas.
To date there has been no evidence of any botanical demise and, in the Alpine Meadow area, there is evidence that plant life is actually improving. It has been suggested that this is because the ski area traffic has actually reduced the number of rabbits in that area of the mountain during the summer months.
At Whakapapa, the original botanical transects, established in 1990, to check the impact of higher and denser snow-mass from both snowmaking and snow grooming, show no measurable degradation, an extremely positive and rewarding result.
New and more powerful Kassbohrer 600 Pisten Bully snow grooming machines are enabling RAL to develop and maintain higher grooming standards. The bigger machines use less fuel and have lower emissions than the older 400 machines and are 20% to 30% more productive, resulting in more extensive trail grooming in a shorter time. The new machines also have improved implements which result in an additional gain; more effective blades and tillers mean that a single pass can create corduroy conditions which previously would have required at least two grooming passes.
The use of winch cats means that up and down grooming is possible, which is not only more efficient in terms of grooming time but also means snow swept down by skiers and boarders is pushed back up the slopes and effectively reused. This is a tremendous bonus in steeper or more confined and heavily trafficked areas and enables good grooming on trails that were previously left untouched by the groomers.
Whilst it would be an advantage to use bio-diesel, with its better environmental impact, it is not readily available in New Zealand. However it is likely that in coming years it will be in more common use and, as the new machines are fully capable of operating on bio-diesel, it is just a matter of time before this happens and the environmental footprint of the grooming fleet will be correspondingly reduced.
HIGH MOUNTAIN COFFEE
RAL staff who like their daily fix of coffee have been treated to individual, re-useable cups for the 2015 season. It’s all part of the focus on reducing the environmental impact on the mountain. With over 700 on-mountain staff during the season, that’s a lot of disposable cups coming out of the staff rooms.
By supplying the staff with the individualised re-useable cups the company has not only reduced the litter and wastage problem but it’s also created cleaner staff areas, instilled a sense of environmental ownership amongst staff and potentially lowered costs.
RAL have also offered a 50 cent discount to all customers if their coffee is put in a reusable cup; another way of enabling customers to help reduce their footprint on the mountain. It’s astonishing how much the use of re-usable coffee cups, and real drinking glasses at café water fountains, has already had in terms of rubbish reduction.