Boatie cries foul after KJ complaint


Queenstown’s Kawarau Jet stands accused of trumping up a safety complaint against a private boatie to bolster its battle against a rival.

The accusation is denied – “I absolutely refute that, that’s an absolute,” KJ’s Andy Brinsley says.

But harbourmaster Marty Black – himself just cleared on a safety complaint laid against him by KJ – says last weekend’s complaint against the private boatie is going nowhere.

Boatie Rob “Blue” Gardner came to Mountain Scene to get things off his chest.

“I flatly deny safety issues caused by my driving – that’s why I’m pushing this so far.

“I suspect this complaint has been trumped up – and the harbourmaster notified – to bolster KJ’s consent queries over safety issues on the stretch of river between the [Kawarau Falls] bridge and the Shotover confluence.”

For months KJ has been in a bitter battle with rival Thunder Jet, which is pitching for consents on the same stretch of river as the jetboat giant – KJ opposes the bid on safety grounds.

Adding to the brew, KJ also faces safety-related charges on the same stretch – eight counts of bylaw breaches were filed in the District Court by Queenstown Lakes District Council last Friday.

Last Saturday Gardner and his partner went down the Kawarau behind a KJ craft, whose driver later claimed Gardner was on the wrong side of the river between the bridge and Frankton Zoological Gardens.

“I was not on the wrong side of the river at all,” Gardner says.

Before receiving KJ’s radio complaint, Black had by chance travelled behind Gardner for two kilometres on Gardner’s return up-river.

Black: “[Gardner] was 100 per cent – I didn’t see him do anything wrong.”

The harbourmaster confirms Gardner has been driving jetboats for 25 years – with five years as a commercial driver – and has a clean slate.

Back at Frankton Marina, Black told Gardner of KJ’s complaint – “and he emphatically denied it”.

At Gardner’s insistence, Black told KJ to put its complaint in writing.

“But that’s just their word against his,” Black says – he believes Gardner’s in the clear.

KJ has laid two other complaints against private boaties in the past few months, Black says – neither went anywhere. He won’t comment on complaints allegedly being trumped up.

Brinsley says KJ drivers, not the company, file complaints such as the one against Gardner.

“It’s the [KJ] driver who’s observed certain behaviour on the river and passed it on to Marty Black – as we’re obliged to do.

“We’re not an enforcement agency – all we’re doing is reporting behaviour. Marty can follow it up and that’s the end of it as far as we’re concerned.”