Berth bust-up

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Kawarau Jet boss Kelly takes on Coastguard over spot on wharf jetty.

The Wakatipu’s water rescue service alleges a jetboat company boss effectively prevented its lifesaving craft from operating out of a public berth in Queenstown Bay.

Coastguard Queenstown spokes­man Tim Francis claims Kawarau Jet co-owner Shaun Kelly “put every obstacle in our way” to block the Naiad rescue craft from berthing at the public jetty over Christmas/New Year.

The Coastguard crew wanted to be close to potential emergencies like kayakers caught in wind changes. Kelly roundly rejects the Francis allegation, saying he totally supports the Coastguard and apologises if Francis got the wrong end of the stick.

On Tuesday last week, Coast­guard moved its $500,000 Naiad from Frankton Marina to the little-used public jetty by Earnslaw Park’s booking kiosk.

The move was on the say-so of local harbourmaster Marty Black, who this week said Queenstown and Wanaka had had the worst start to a boating season in years.

Francis says Kelly called on Christmas Eve, alleging Coast­guard had commandeered Kawarau Jet’s berth in front of the public jetty.

“We said, ‘we don’t think we have, the harbourmaster said we’re on the public berth’,” maintains Francis.

“Then [Kelly] said, ‘my boat’s going to sit in front of you and you can’t get around it’.

Francis: “We said we can get around it. He said, ‘what about when I put a twin [engined boat] there, you won’t be able to get around that’.

Coastguard gave up, says Francis. “I said, ‘OK, OK, Shaun, it’s absolutely evident you’re going to do anything to prevent us being there – we’ll just move out’.

“I was horrified.”

Francis says Coastguard moved its craft back to Frankton that same night.

“It’s quite disappointing and it seems a bit bizarre because it could be Kawarau Jet we’re rescuing.

“From our dealings with Shaun, we have no confidence that he wouldn’t put a boat there in front of us that would prevent us getting out.

“We’re a voluntary rescue service on the lake – we have to be able to get in and out 24 hours a day and we cannot be constrained because of the whims of Shaun Kelly.”

In his day job, Francis is compliance cop for Queenstown Lakes District Council regulatory quango Lakes Environmental.

He says on Christmas Eve, Earnslaw operator Real Journeys offered Coastguard another Queenstown Bay jetty – but there wasn’t time to get it ready.

Kelly completely denies being obstructive – he supports Coastguard 100 per cent, noting some of his jetboat drivers are Coastguard volunteers.

The Kawarau Jet co-owner says he rang Francis on Christmas Eve because the Coastguard craft was tied up at his company’s jetty – which was needed.

“There was no ill-feeling – [Francis] said, ‘sorry, I didn’t realise we were parked on your one’ so he moved it for us.”

Kelly was unaware the berth behind his is a public jetty or that harbourmaster Black had sanctioned Coastguard’s use of it.

“Typical of Marty [Black], he never consulted us whatsoever – nor did Coastguard.”

Nonetheless, Coastguard was welcome to use the public jetty if it could get in there.

But Kelly doubts the “great big long [rescue] boat” could get past his company’s small jetboat, let alone one of his large twin-engine craft.

“I didn’t realise I might have offended [Francis].

“There’s no bad blood between us and Coastguard – I just apologise to Tim if Tim did take the wrong idea about it.”