Angry residents fire up at jet safari trips

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A jetboat firm faces an upstream battle to renew its concession on a Queenstown river after angry objections from residents. 

Ngai Tahu Tourism Southern has applied for Department of Conservation permission to keep running Dart River Jet Safaris on the river, through Mount Aspiring National Park, for the next 20 years. 

DoC received 12 submissions objecting – and organised an informal meeting in Glenorchy two weeks ago to discuss perceived damage caused by jetboat operations. 

Kinloch resident Alistair Angus says: “There’s quite a history of damage and denial going on up here that we’ve had a bloody gutsful of. 

“DoC was just going to rubber-stamp it – 20 years, bang and good night. We’ve managed to hold that up. We hounded them for a formal hearing but got this lip-service instead.” 

Only four submitters attended the meeting with DoC Wakatipu community relations boss John Roberts, Ngai Tahu Tourism Southern, Queenstown Lakes District Council, the Otago Regional Council, Fish & Game New Zealand and Queenstown harbourmaster Marty Black. 

DoC’s Roberts says the pre-hearing meeting identified issues outside the scope of the concession process. 

“The submitters were generally concerned with the activity of jetboats at Kinloch [which occasionally use that side of the lake], which is administered by the harbour-mas­­­­ter and council,” Roberts says. 

The formal hearing will only address the stretch of river and operations in the national park. 

Angus says those opposed want an independent environmental impact report on jetboating, which they claim damages grass river beds and hatcheries. 

Ngai Tahu Tourism southern regional boss David Kennedy argues there is no impact. 

“There’s not the damage they say,” Kennedy says. 

“The Dart is such a dynamic river with huge volumes of water and material coming down there which are hundreds or thousands of times the power of anything a jetboat could do. 

“We’re aware of their views but we are compliant with every regulation we need to be compliant with.”