Kayakers have declared war on a Queenstown jetboat firm bidding to run trips to the historic bungy bridge.
KJet has again applied for permission to use the Kawarau River downstream from the Arrow confluence, near Chard Farm.
It plans to install CCTV cameras on the tight 1.4km stretch of river as one of the measures to ensure the safety of
kayakers, rafters, river surfers and other users.
KJet owner Shaun Kelly says there’s huge demand from the conference and incentives market for jetboat trips to AJ Hackett’s bungy bridge and Gibbston’s wine valley.
He believes jetboats and non-motorised river craft can share the river safely.
Kelly points to similar arrangements elsewhere, such as Skippers Canyon, the Dart River, Goldfields and Hanmer
But that’s nonsense, Central Otago Whitewater chairman Gordon Rayner says.
“Kayaks and jetboats don’t mix, it’ll never work. The numbers they’ll put down there will just increase and increase and we’ll be squeezed out.
“Jetboats always rule on the river. It’s unsafe. Jetboats are dangerous - look at how many people have been injured or killed.
“We’ve been submitting against this since 2001. We have to protect the river for unpowered recreational use into
the future. We’ll be fighting it.”
KJet re-submitted for resource consent last week, which has been notified.
ast year, the firm attempted to get a change in the bylaw which bans powered craft on that stretch of river and imposes a five-knot speed limit.
Kelly says they are now seeking consent and a change to that bylaw - but only for KJet.
“Last year the council chose to decline it so we’re giving more evidence and putting our case forward,” Kelly says.
“We’re not trying to push anyone out. I’m confident we can safely co-exist with the kayaks and rafters, it happens in this area and right across the country.
“There’s many examples of them operating together safely and without incident.
“Safety is our main priority. We’d have CCTV being monitored in real time and if there were any kayaks there,
we’d wait for them to clear.”
The application would see a two-berth jetty built on the right bank of the river 75m upstream from AJ Hackett’s suspension bridge.
It would allow for 12 boats to operate on the route, from the jetty as well as Queenstown Bay and Frankton.
Kelly says: “The industry is changing and the demand for traffic down to the winery area is huge, we’re getting enquiries all the time.
“It’s something we’re passionate about and we want to be operational as soon as possible but need to go through due process and make sure all safety concerns are addressed.”
Commercial operators Serious Fun Riversurfing and Queenstown Rafting also oppose the application.
Queenstown Rafting’s Vance Boyd says: “This was all traversed last year but I guess they see the financial benefit of applying again.
“They’ll have to get over the hurdles of both the consent and the bylaw.”
Chard Farm owner Rob Hay says he reckons the majority of residents will oppose it.
“I believe this is the fourth time they’ve applied.
“It’s not just the stretch they’re applying for but the extra boat traffic coming down the river that’s a concern,
affecting all the residents along Lake Hayes, Shotover Country and elsewhere.
“It’s the pure loss of enjoyment of the river for other things, fishing, kayaking, etc.”