PHOTO: Photo: CC BY-SA 4.0 / W. Bulach, via Wikimedia Commons
The future of the Grand Chateau Tongariro is in limbo with the hotel not taking any new bookings for 2023 and 2024.
The hotel itself remains open, but virtually empty, as mystery surrounds next week’s release of ‘site assessment’ reports, some of which RNZ understands relate to earthquake strengthening and the building’s land lease.
So what’s going on and why are locals being kept in the dark?
The chateau’s 30-year lease expired in April 2020, and the building owner, Kah New Zealand – a subsidiary of the Singapore-based Kah Motor – has been in negotiations with the Crown to determine its future.
The Department of Conservation’s district operations manager George Taylor has been party to the talks, and will be there when stakeholders meet again next week.
“DOC has offered a new long-term lease to Kah and negotiations around it are ongoing. Consultation with Tūwharetoa, specifically Ngāti Hikairo, is a requirement while Uenuku and Ngāti Haua will also be informed of the process.”
First Up made numerous approaches to the hotel owners to try and get a clearer idea of the what is going on.
We wanted to know why staff were saying the hotel was booked up until the end of 2023, why the hotel’s website was not accepting new bookings, the fate of future bookings along with what would happen to hotel staff.
A spokesperson for the building operators, another Kah subsidiary called Bayview International Hotels and Resorts, said in a statement that as part of its lease renewal, the hotel had proactively conducted site assessments and was awaiting final reports.
The company would be in touch early next week, it said.
First Up understands the hotel needs further earthquake strengthening, which will cost more than what the company had initially budgeted for.
We thought we’d grab a coffee at the hotel’s cafe to see what it was like inside. But it was closed.
Likewise, the bar across the road, Tussock, which is also owned by Kah, was closed.
Apart from two white utility vehicles the car park outside was empty.
And except for a couple of bags tucked behind a counter, we didn’t see any sign of guests in the reception area.
But on the footpath outside we managed to catch up with UK tourists Richard and Carol as they waited for their shuttle. They had just spent a delightful few days at the chateau, which they said was very quiet inside.
They had booked their stay way back in 2020, before Covid hit.
“It was, I don’t know, 10 percent full,” Richard said. “We thought it would be a lot fuller ’cause it’s mid-summer isn’t it.”
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