Milford operator and jetboat company join

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Two longstanding shareholders in a Queenstown jetboat company have sold their half share to a Milford-based tourism operator. 

Kawarau Jet directors Andy Brinsley and John Martin – both Queenstown-based – sold their 50 per cent shareholding to Te Anau-based Southern Discoveries, which runs trips in Milford Sound. 

The deal takes effect from today (Friday). The remaining 50 per cent shareholding is retained by Kawarau Jet director Shaun Kelly, a director of the company for 24 years. 

In a statement, Brinsley says after 11 years of involvement with Kawarau Jet he’s now pursuing other business and family interests in the resort. 

However, he’ll stay on as its independent chairman and is “excited to participate in setting the platform for an exciting new stage in the company’s history”. 

Southern Discoveries general manager John Robson says since being bought by Dunedin-based Skeggs Group in 2008 his company has focused on expansion and development, particularly into Queenstown. 

“[Southern and Kawarau Jet] are both already well-established in the tourism market but with very different clients, so we see this as a way of continuing to grow both businesses through this joint representation.
 
Kelly says the new partner provides a great platform for growth and development. 

“Jetboating and tourism is our passion, and we love showing off our beautiful country to visitors from around the world.” 

Skeggs Group boss David Skeggs says the Kawarau Jet partnership is in line with a big-picture programme of investment, development and growth. 

“Times are tough at the moment, but there’s still a lot of synergies between Queenstown and Milford and lots of opportunities to continue to grow the tourism market long-term.” 

Kawarau Jet has 15 staff and eight boats, running thrill rides on the Kawarau and Shotover rivers, operating out of Queenstown Bay. 

New company Thunder Jet recently muscled in on Kawarau Jet territory. Thunder Jet got the go-ahead to resume trips in January after a lengthy battle against Kawarau Jet in the Environment Court. Thunder Jet co-owner Neville Kelly is Shaun Kelly’s brother. 

Southern Discoveries’ first move into Queenstown was to buy fisher charter boat Queenstown Princess last year and it’s also trying to put a larger boat on Lake Wakatipu to run tourist trips.